What just happened? While the company has constantly denied it, Amazon has long been accused of having some of the worst working conditions in the western world. It’s a criticism that John Oliver recently looked at on ‘Last Week Tonight,' leading to a company executive defending the retail giant.
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.
We are proud of the safe, quality work environment in our facilities - so much so that we offer tours to the public, ages six and up. But unlike over 100,000 other people this year, John and his producers did not take us up on our invitation to tour one of our facilities.— Dave Clark (@davehclark) July 1, 2019