What happens when you buy something online? Your order finds its way to a worker in a warehouse on a 7:30am to 5pm shift who finds the item somewhere in a cavernous warehouse and scans it. Thousands of times a day. They risk termination if they don’t meet impossible targets, if they take a day off for a doctor visit, even if they injure themselves. They have almost no worker’s rights or benefits. And they make about $11 an hour.
The warehouses are owned by third party logistics companies, and they staff the warehouses using temping agencies that supply thousands of warehouse workers. Sometimes they’re supplying so many that they even have offices right there in the warehouse. By operating this way, big name retailers like Amazon and Walmart distance themselves from the conditions in the warehouses. They’re rarely named in the frequent lawsuits, and they can easily shift responsibility.
Mac McClelland went undercover recently at one of these warehouses, serving an unnamed online retailer. The company running the warehouse estimates its workers walk 12 miles a day chasing impossible targets and negligible pay.
Prior to the previous reporting, Mac McClelland went undercover at another warehouse in Ohio where workers were forbidden from even speaking on their shift.
Huffington Post published this expose on Walmart’s warehouses last year. Workers there — “lumpers” — shifted boxes, some as heavy as 200 lbs, to and from trailers all day long. If there isn’t enough work to go around they’re simply sent home without pay, and they were only given two 15-minute breaks on a shift.
A report from last year on one of Amazon’s warehouses, where temperatures soar so high there are sometimes ambulances waiting to treat dehydrated workers. If they didn’t get well enough to return, they were replaced.
Vanessa Veselka, a former anti-WTO activist, got a job as a stock picker at an Amazon warehouse with the sole purpose of unionizing it.
(Image via The Atlantic)