Recent worker deaths at Amazon should give pause to officials seeking to woo the conglomerate
BOSTON – Amazon announced today that Boston is one of 20 finalists for its second headquarters, a move that could bring as many as 50,000 quality jobs to the region.
Massachusetts has been looking to incentivize the move through the supposed offers of millions of dollars in grants and tax credits, similar to the deal made with General Electric to relocate their headquarters to Fort Point with the help of $125 million in government assistance.
However, before Amazon is offered the same tax breaks, the City and State should demand the company improve their poor and under-reported worker health and safety record.
During the month of September 2017, within the course of one week, Amazon experienced two separate workplace fatalities in their warehouses in Pennsylvania and Indiana. Devan Michael Shoemaker, 28, was killed on September 19, when the driver of the truck he was working behind accidentally ran over him at an Amazon warehouse in Carlisle, Pa. Phillip Terry, 59, was killed on September 24, when his head was crushed by a forklift at an Amazon warehouse in Plainfield, IN. (http://www.ehstoday.com/safety/two-worker-deaths-september-different-amazon-warehouses-spawn-concern-worker-advocates). OSHA is investigating both incidents.
Including the deaths of Shoemaker and Terry, five workers have died in Amazon warehouses since 2013 due to workplace incidents. OSHA has repeatedly cited the company and temporary agencies it uses to staff its facilities for safety violations.
These recent workplace fatalities have caused alarm when it comes to employee health and safety at Amazon. In his article, The Life and Death of an Amazon Warehouse Temp Employee, David Jamieson (http://highline. huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/life-and-death-amazon-temp/) describes the demand on “pickers” who were expected to pull at least 100 items a day, sometimes walking 12 miles in the process. Through handheld scanners, the company monitors every move of both permanent and temporary employees to meet intense demands for high-speed delivery. However, is it paying equal attention to workplace safety? With a fortune of taxpayer dollars on the line, Boston must demand that Amazon improve the working conditions in its facilities.
The fact is, all workers deserve to earn their living and to come home to their families alive and well every day. To hold Amazon accountable, it is imperative that any financial incentives be linked to improved safety to adequately address hazards and ensure that recent injuries and fatalities are prevented going forward. We cannot let the pride of winning Amazon’s second headquarters overshadow the commitment our elected officials have to keep us safe.
MassCOSH strives to ensure that all workers earn their living and return home alive and well.
MassCOSH unites workers, unions and community groups with environmental and health activists, to end dangerous work conditions, to organize for safe, secure jobs, and to advocate for healthy communities. Through training, technical assistance and building community/labor alliances, MassCOSH mobilizes its members and develops leaders in the movement to end unsafe work conditions.