Amazon exec refutes damning John Oliver segment on company's working conditions


Posts: 7,415   +65
Staff member

Back in 2015, the New York Times published a damning report on the working conditions at Amazon’s fulfillment centers, which claimed the company employs cruel management practices and shows little empathy for staff with health and family problems. We’ve also heard of workers in Germany going on strike over pay and conditions, while a BBC investigation into one of its UK-based warehouses found staff were expected to collect orders every 33 seconds.

Oliver’s segment looked at the “brutal” conditions many warehouse workers face. It focused mostly on Amazon, which he says isn’t the worst offender, but that “being not the worst is a low, low bar.”

In addition to the alleged “relentless pace” that the warehouses operate at, Oliver talks about managers controlling the amount of time workers spend on bathroom breaks, which has resulted in seven pregnant employees launching lawsuits against the firm.

"When people shorten their time in the bathroom, they don't shorten the bathroom part, they shorten the hand-washing part so the next time you order something online, it's safe to assume that it's been packed by urine-soaked hands," said Oliver.

The host also highlighted Amazon having “actively fought” against unions pushing for more worker protections, and the physically draining workloads that can involve walking 15 to 20 miles per shift.

Dave Clark, Amazon's senior vice president of operations, responded to the show with a series of tweets defending the company. He said Oliver was “wrong on Amazon,” highlighting its $15 minimum wage and claiming it operates a “safe, quality work environment.” He also said Oliver and the show’s producers refused an invitation to tour an Amazon facility.

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Uncle Al

Posts: 8,468   +7,282
I'm not a fan of John Oliver but this time he appears to have hit the issue on the head. I have two neighbors that work at our local Amazon distribution warehouse and they have confirmed John Oliver's report to the letter. They have a tremendous turnover rate and only those with an extremely high level of tolerance can put up with it. One told me there have been a number of attempts to unionize but the company violates the federal statute. I asked "why unions" and was told by both that the working conditions there were so bad they could not see any other way and if ANY employee mentions a union they are immediately dismissed for any variety of excuses.

Mike E

Posts: 13   +7
To make it even more personal (less personal, actually, as I'm being sarcastic), much of the hiring and firing is done by bots. This is about two steps away from the Terminator.

How do you like your disruption now?


Posts: 117   +49
So what if he did accept the invitation. It would be in a controlled environement. They would control everything they see and hear. Of course it would be perfect for Amazon. Same type of crap happened with Windows Vista with their controlled environment showing to users how to use Windows Vista. In went online so search for it. You see people really liking Vista...thats because they had helpers all the time. Reality was Vista was **** and crap in the end. Same goes for Amazon. Surprise visit would be best in my opinion and impersonate someone else or an actual worker


Posts: 656   +313
I didn't really hear any horrible stories from when my troubled sister went to work for an amazon facility as a picker. The only thing is that she didn't work there all that long until the internal metrics determined she wasn't keeping pace. They assigned trainers to monitor her in an attempt to evaluate any errors in her work process but she claims she was told that they couldn't specifically identify what she was doing wrong. Its definitely true that computers determine if you get to stay or are let go. Her supervisor told her it was out of their hands. Eventually, she was basically told to voluntarily leave or be let go. Difference being that if she voluntarily left, she'd have the option for reapplying for another position elsewhere in the future.


Posts: 3,064   +784
I worked with a guy 3 years ago who used to work at Amazon. He actually mentioned exactly what they describe in this broadcast. He said they were to strict. The only specific example I remember is that the time it takes to walk to the restroom would get you into trouble. I thought maybe he was just fing around and talking to people. We ended being on the same crew for about 4 months, he was a ******* but we both worked at a beast mode pace. I completely believe em.

Jeff Re

Posts: 238   +215
I'm sure the "invitation" went something like this:

"Can we come tour an Amazon Fulfillment Center?"
"Can we bring cameras?"
"Can we quote you on anything you say?"
"Well, all right then..."
I've been working at Amazon for a little over 1 year now in the pick department. I feel that a lot of scrutiny that goes around towards what people think goes in is very unjust. Anyone with a hidden camera can go around and show their workplaces in a negative light. I spend all my days talking to people, taking several restroom breaks, a couple min extra min for my breaks and lunch and joking around with my managers. But if I choose for you not to see that and instead showing you a day where I happen to be in a bad mood, or something breaks in the building and people are running around like chickens with their heads cut off then that's what you will think happens everyday. This job is not for everyone for a huge array of reasons like physical restraints, mental, emotional, and time. This is the best job I've had up to where I am in my life, I've worked as a QA tester, Video Editor, Retail, Waiter and out of everything this has paid the most, given the most benefits, and offered the most opportunities to grow.
To make it even more personal (less personal, actually, as I'm being sarcastic), much of the hiring and firing is done by bots. This is about two steps away from the Terminator.

How do you like your disruption now?

I know a couple of people that have been Terminated and the process is completely different than what everything thinks it is. The only thing that the computer does flag HR and your Direct Manager that there is an issue. After that it is all human interaction the find out what is going on, why, and how it can get resolved. As much as having the Terminator walk around terminating people the FC is still in our hands for a while!