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Amazon warehouse worker testifies to Senate: ‘My workday feels like a 9-hour intense workout every day’

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“Amazon boasts it pays workers higher the minimum wage. What they don’t tell you is how these jobs really are, ”Jennifer Bates said in her testimony.

“We have to keep up the pace. My workday seems like an intense nine-hour workout every day. And they keep track of all our movements: if the computer doesn’t scan, you’ll be charged for being out of work, said Bates, a learning ambassador who helps train other workers at the facility and who has been a vocal organizer behind the union push. “From the beginning, I knew that if I worked too slow or had too much time off work, I could be disciplined or even fired.”

Bates was invited by Senator Bernie Sanders to speak on “The Crisis of Income and Wealth Inequality in America.” Amazon’s outgoing CEO Jeff Bezos was also invited to speak, but declined the offer. In a statement last week, an Amazon spokesman said, “We fully support Senator Sanders’ efforts to reduce income inequality with legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $ 15 per hour for all workers.” as we did for ours in 2018 “.

“We take employee feedback seriously, including that of Ms. Bates, but we don’t think her feedback represents more than 90% of her colleagues at the compliance center who say they would recommend Amazon as an ideal place to work with friends and relatives, “an Amazon spokesman said Wednesday in a statement. The spokesman added that Amazon employees “earn at least $ 15 an hour, receive comprehensive health care and paid leave benefits.”

The company rose their minimum wage up to $ 15 in 2018 after the drop in criticism, including Sanders, that Amazon did not pay enough to its workers. Amazon has been in a recent public relations bombing on the subject, indicating his support for a federal minimum wage of $ 15.
The Amazon Bessemer union election, which began in the mail on February 8 and will run until March 29, has attracted the national attention of prominent figures, including President Joe Biden i Stacey Abrams. Earlier this month, a congressional delegation visited Bessemer’s facilities in support of workers lobbying for unionization. If successful, it would become the first Amazon-based union in the United States in its nearly 27-year history.
Jennifer Bates, an Amazon warehouse worker, told Senate members that her workday

Bates described 10-hour shifts with only two 30-minute breaks that “aren’t long enough to give you time to rest” given the large extent of the facility.

“Just walking a lot to the bathroom and back eating a lovely rest time,” said Bates, who said the facility’s elevators had signage indicating they were “just material, no pilots”. “I couldn’t believe they were building a facility with so many elevators for materials and getting employees to take the stairs of a huge four-flight facility.”

In an interview last month with CNN Business, Bates marked a list of issues workers hope to improve with the help of union representation, including adequate rest periods, better procedures for filing and receiving responses to complaints, higher wages, and protection against Amazon by unfairly enforcing policies such as social distancing from discipline. workers.

As previously reported by CNN Business, Amazon has conducted an aggressive anti-union campaign before the vote. Workers were often informed of Amazon’s stance that a union is an unnecessary expense. Workers saw anti-union signage at bathroom stops; they met individually on the warehouse floor and were also required to attend group meetings every few shifts. The company sent numerous text messages to workers and launched an anti-union website warning against paying dues: “Don’t buy that dinner, don’t buy this school supplies, don’t buy these gifts because you won’t have nearly $ 500 you paid in quotas “.

Bates addressed anti-union efforts in his testimony. “The company would only raise different reasons why the union was bad. And we had to listen. If someone spoke up and didn’t agree with what the company was saying, they would close the meeting and ask people to go back to work. “Then go on with individual meetings on the floor,” he said, calling it “annoying” to see some co-workers “confused with what was said at meetings.” (In a statement to CNN Business last month, Amazon spokeswoman Heather Knox said Amazon has “provided an education that helps employees understand the facts of joining a union.”
Tensions are high in Amazon’s warehouse as the major union vote begins

“It’s frustrating that all we want is to make Amazon a better place to work. Still, Amazon acts like they’re under attack. Maybe if they spent less time (and money) trying to stop the union, they’d hear what we’re saying. And maybe they would create a company as good for workers and our community as it is for shareholders and executives, ”Bates said.

While the pandemic has been a boon for Amazon’s business, it has also been a driver of a more general employee revolt. Amazon has been slowly recovering some of its pandemic-related policies. The company suspended his unlimited unpaid free time in May, as well as the $ 2 hourly wage and overtime pay in June. He reset his “downtime” metric to track worker productivity this fall. It was also notified workers in February that it would soon resume daily “stand-up meetings of socially distanced small groups.”
Amazon has said it’s over 150 process updates to ensure the safety and health of its employees. The company, which continues to provide up to two weeks of paid leave for employees diagnosed with coronavirus, has also granted two special bonuses to front-line workers since it removed pandemic-related wage protections.

“Why can’t such a big, rich company do better for its workers?” Bates said. “Amazon even took the wages of our essential workers in the midst of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Amazon has made tons of money during this crisis. Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world. And now he’s even richer thanks to the our workers “.

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