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Sweatshops in America

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AMAZON
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Recently the Morning Call, a local newspaper serving Allentown, PA and the surrounding area, spoke with 20 employees of Amazon.com's massive Breinigsville, PA packing and shipping facility. The warehouse is important because it is located within a days drive from a third of the U.S. and Canadian population. It is how Amazon.com can deliver goods so quickly to a huge chunk of the country. The stories the Morning Call heard and published are pretty disturbing. This warehouse is, quite literally, a sweatshop. You see, the warehouse isn't cooled in the summer. Over the last several months, temperatures soared over 110 degrees inside the facility.

Elmer Goris was one of the employees who spoke with the Morning Call. He recently quit after a year working at the Amazon warehouse. He described blistering heat, fellow employees passing out, and, to add insult to dangerous heat rash, poor treatment from management. After more than 10 years working at warehouses, Goris sums up his experience with Amazon: "I never felt like passing out in a warehouse and I never felt treated like a piece of crap in any other warehouse but this one." Another employee said it was like "working in a convection oven while blow-drying your hair."

To make matters worse, workers reported a culture that used fear of being fired to push them to work ever faster. Employees say they were reprimanded and threatened frequently for failing to meet unreasonable work loads. It was common to see fellow employees being fired and escorted from the facility. In such a terrible economy, workers said they pushed themselves extremely hard for fear of losing their jobs. It was a recipe for heat related injuries.

What is truly outrageous about this story is that Amazon.com knew what a dangerous recipe this was. Instead of fixing the temperature in the warehouse, they arranged to have an ambulance sit outside to treat anyone who fell ill. An emergency room doctor reported the warehouse to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after treating a number of workers.

This would be unacceptable anywhere, but it is unfathomable in 21st century America. There is currently a petition on change.org demanding that Amazon.com end these sweatshops conditions at its Breinigsville, PA warehouse immediately. Please take a minute to sign it.

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