The company reportedly forced its employes to work in unsafe conditions, but Wall Street may be indirectly responsible for its actions
As bad as the recent recession has been, it isn't the Great Depression. Unemployment didn't soar past 20%. We didn't experience crop shortages and famine like during the Dust Bowl. It's been bad, but not that bad. Or has it been? Ezra Klein challenges this notion in his latest Bloomberg View column. He points to sweatshop-like conditions at an Amazon.com facility in Pennsylvania. The details are shocking, but where should we direct our anger?
Brutal Working Conditions
Klein relies on the reporting by Spencer Soper in Allentown, Pennsylvania's Morning Call for the heart of his story. Soper details the conditions at an Amazon warehouse facility. Klein summarizes:
The warehouse, Soper reported, is brutally hot in summer. In a nod to modernity, "computers monitored the heat index in the building and Amazon employees received notification about the heat index by email." One day, the index "exceeded 110 degrees on the third floor." A local emergency room doctor treated so many warehouse employees for heat exhaustion this summer that he called federal regulators to report an unsafe work environment. A security guard called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after seeing two pregnant women taken to nurses. Some workers would break out into a sarcastic chant: "End slavery at Amazon!"
Obviously, this isn't okay. Klein notes that in a good labor market, these workers might just quit. But at a time when unemployment is high, that isn't an option. So Amazon has the upper hand and can treat its workers poorly.