In a letter sent Friday, US senators called on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to reform its safety practices and improve its treatment of workers, according to a letter first published by Reveal writer Will Evans and signed by Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker, among others.
“Any practice that puts profits before worker safety is unacceptable,” the letter reads. “We urge you to take immediate steps to protect your employees from workplace injuries. Your employees’ lives and well-being depend upon your swift action.” It’s addressed directly to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and requests a written response, including what actions the company will take, by February 21st.
Amazon has come under fire for dodging workplace safety regulations for years. The senators’ letter points specifically to reporting from publications like The Atlantic and Reveal in what it calls a pattern of suffering Amazon employees. Gizmodo also reported on the “grueling and unsafe” work conditions of Amazon’s Staten Island fulfillment center, which included everything from sprains to one woman who suffered a miscarriage. A report from The Verge details how employees were required to sign strict noncompete agreements for at least a year and a half after their time there.
The letter also outlines a list of actions the senators are asking of Amazon. Those requests include reducing workers’ quotas and speed requirements, ensuring employees are getting bathrooms breaks as needed, and creating a way for workers to raise safe and healthy concerns in a timely and effective manner.
“Amazon’s dismal safety record indicates a greater concern for profits than for your own workers’ safety and health,” the letter reads. “We urge you to overhaul this profit-at-all costs culture at your company and take the immediate steps identified in this letter.”
In a statement to The Verge, an Amazon spokesperson said that “nothing is more important” to the company than the safety of its employees.
“OSHA is on the record as saying that underreporting of injuries is an industry-wide problem, and companies do this to keep their rates low — a former assistant secretary of OSHA estimated that 50 percent or more of severe injuries go unreported,” the spokesperson said. “Amazon does the opposite — we take an aggressive stance on recording injuries no matter how big or small. The invitation remains open for any of the Senators to come take a tour — last year over 300,000 people toured an Amazon fulfillment center and we appreciate that they took the time to learn the facts first-hand.”