Sens. Rubio and Brown Issue Bipartisan Call for Probe Into Amazon Labor Practices

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
December 21, 2021 Updated: December 21, 2021

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have asked the Labor Department for a full federal probe into Amazon’s labor practices, with the two lawmakers citing recent reports that suggest potential employment law violations, “troubling working conditions,” and “improper treatment” of Amazon employees.

Rubio and Brown said in a Dec. 20 letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Martin Walsh (pdf) that a series of cases and worker claims “raise serious concerns regarding Amazon’s employment practices,” including questions about possible violations of wage and hour laws and occupational safety rules.

“Workers’ concerns are clear,” the pair wrote. “Amazon’s business practices seem to prioritize profit over people.”

In support of their request for the probe, the two senators cited a number of cases that they say are “illustrative of chronic mismanagement” at the e-commerce giant.

They noted, for example, that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that Amazon wrongfully terminated a worker who complained about unsafe working conditions during the pandemic, along with two others who criticized Amazon’s practices.

The NLRB also ordered a re-run of an election by workers at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, that voted against unionizing. An NLRB review of the conduct of the election “determined that Amazon’s actions during the election exhibited a ‘flagrant disregard’ for the agency’s rules and ‘made a free and fair election impossible,'” Rubio and Brown wrote.

The lawmakers also cited a recent announcement by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that the agency would investigate the deaths of six people when an Amazon warehouse in Illinois collapsed during a tornado. They cited reports indicating one of the employees killed by the collapsed building sent a text message to his girlfriend saying Amazon would not let him go home during the storm.

“Other Amazon workers have voiced concerns regarding the company’s alleged lack of emergency response training, stringent cellphone policies, and expectations that workers continue to work during tornado warnings,” they wrote.

They also cited reports of workers not having time to use the restroom while on the job, in some cases “being forced to resort to extraordinary measures such as urinating in bottles to meet work quotas.”

The lawmakers said the cases, along with other claims by Amazon employees, raise serious concerns about the company’s employment practices.

“Given Amazon’s impact on the economy as one of our nation’s largest employers, and a federal contractor, it is paramount that we ensure workers are treated fairly, with dignity, and in full compliance with labor and employment laws,” the pair wrote.

The Epoch Times has reached out to Amazon and the Labor Department with requests for comment on the contents of the letter but did not receive a response by publication.

Tom Ozimek
Reporter
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'