Civil rights teams urge lawmakers to crack down on Amazon’s ‘harmful’ employee surveillance

Civil rights groups are calling on lawmakers and regulators to take action against Amazon over its pace monitoring system.

More than 35 civil rights organizations signed a letter on Monday calling for action. The letter was released on the same day of Amazon’s two-day Prime Day sale, which activists criticized, arguing that it increased pressure on workers.

“It is time for lawmakers and regulators to step in and end the penal system of constant surveillance that drives the dangerous pace of work at Amazon,” the groups wrote, according to a copy of the letter told The Hill.

The letter specifically calls on state and federal officials to enact laws that prohibit surveillance-driven discipline and control to ensure workers are protected from “abusive conditions.”

The groups also call for updates to OSHA standards and enforcement to end practices that track the pace and leisure of workers.

The letter also urges the agencies to investigate Amazon for workplace abuse, including injury, retaliation, and discrimination.

“We require lawmakers and regulators to do everything in their power to end work and free time to ensure that Amazon cannot use this penalty system of surveillance to go through entire workforces in communities across the country,” it says in the letter.

Signatories include anti-Amazon group Athena, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Government Accountability Project, and Public Citizen.

Amazon spokesman Max Gleber defended the company’s workplace guidelines in a statement to The Hill.

“Like most companies, we have performance expectations for every Amazon employee and we measure actual performance against those expectations. Employee performance is measured and evaluated over a period of time as we know a variety of factors can affect the ability to meet expectations in any case. “Given day or hour,” said Gleber.

Gleber added that Amazon’s scanning devices are used to track inventory, not people. The spokesman also said the company is helping employees to take time off “as they need it”.

In terms of occupational safety, Gleber noted that the company invested more than $ 1 billion in new safety measures in 2020.

“Although every incident is one too many, we are continually learning and seeing improvements through ergonomics programs, guided exercises at employee workstations, mechanical assistance equipment, workplace equipment and design, as well as forklift telematics and guard rails – to name just a few.”

The push comes as the Seattle-based e-commerce giant sees heightened scrutiny of its workplace conditions.

Washington State Security last month determined that the pace of work at Amazon was a threat. A quote from the Washington Department of Labor and Industry says there is a “direct link between the monitoring and disciplinary systems of Amazon employees and the MSDs in the workplace.” [musculoskeletal disorders]. “

An Amazon spokesman told the Seattle Times the company was planning to appeal the quote, saying “nothing is more important than the health and safety of our teams”.

Amid the backlash earlier this month, Amazon, in partnership with the National Security Council, announced a $ 12 million work-related accident initiative to investigate and reduce the most common work-related accidents. The aim of the initiative is to find “innovative solutions” to prevent musculoskeletal disorders or injuries to nerves, muscles, joints and other parts of the body.

The civil rights groups rejected the initiative.

“Amazon has announced wellness programs and funding for injury research, but it refuses to do what would stop widespread injuries: eliminate the rate and absence of tasks,” they wrote.

In addition to the letter, activists are organizing demonstrations across the country on Monday in protest of the Prime Day sale.

Workers and community members will hold a virtual rally on Monday evening to advocate work safety at Amazon facilities. The rally will be streamed live and broadcast to Amazon founders Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosThe Achilles’ heel of tax legislation is surprisingly popular – and that’s a problem for taxing the wealthy Overnight Energy: Lake Mead’s decline suggests a frightening aquatic future in West | White House leads opposition to gas tax hike | Biden Taps Ex-New Mexico Lawmaker for USDA Post On The Money: Centrists Gain Influence Over Progressives In Senate Infrastructure Fight White House Rule Out Gas Tax Hike MOREDC’s home, according to the organizers.

Activists in more than 20 states will also hang banners on bridges and overpasses to protest Amazon’s working conditions.

Workers’ organizations, lawyers, and academics will also host a Twitter town hall to discuss Amazon’s use of worker surveillance, and Amazon workers and lawyers will also join a California congregation member to discuss a proposal to improve worker safety.

In response to the planned protests, Gleber said, “This is a series of misleading claims made by misinformed or selfish groups that use Amazon’s profile to advance their individual cause.”

“Amazon has a strong track record of helping our employees, our customers and our communities, including providing safe working conditions and a starting salary of $ 15 with great perks,” added Gleber.

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