What It Takes to Ship Amazon Purchases to You Overnight

A newspaper investigation on the company's Allentown warehouse paints an ugly picture

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Your fellow Americans are working shitty abusive jobs in order for you to receive your Amazon packages, reports The Morning Call, an Allentown, Penn., newspaper. Amazon uses temporary employees in its Breinigsville warehouse, works them to the point of heat exhaustion--no, really, it parks ambulances outside--and then lets them go after they've failed to perform. From long hours, to bad pay, to overheating and exhaustion, the story chronicles what employees go through in order for you to get your packages on time and in good shape.

Things at these warehouses go beyond passive aggressive e-mails from your boss. For one, the heat is a health issue.

One hot day, Goris said, he saw a co-worker pass out at the water fountain. On other hot days, he saw paramedics bring people out of the warehouse in wheelchairs and on stretchers.

And while Amazon recognizes the problem--the company has paramedics to treat any dehydrated workers--it doesn't really fix it. While other warehouses leave loading dock door open to cool things down, Amazon doesn't. "When Amazon workers asked in meetings why this wasn't done at the Amazon warehouse, managers said the company was worried about theft."

That means things get very hot, explains former Amazon employee Elmer Goris,

"Imagine if it's 98 degrees outside and you're in a warehouse with every single dock door closed," Goris said.

Computers monitored the heat index in the building and Amazon employees received notification about the heat index by email. Goris said one day the heat index, a measure that considers humidity, exceeded 110 degrees on the third floor.

"I remember going up there to check the location of an item," Goris said. "I lasted two minutes, because I could not breathe up there."

And if heat doesn't lead to exhaustion, overworking will.

One former temporary warehouse employee said he worked seven months before he was terminated for not working fast enough. In his 50s, he worked 10 hours a day, four days a week as a picker, plucking items from bins and delivering them to packers who put them in boxes for shipment. He would walk 13 to 15 miles daily, he estimated, and was among the oldest pickers.

High salaries and job security don't compensate for long hours. These positions only pay $11 or $12 an hour, employees rarely get promoted, and workers live in fear of getting fired.

The consequences of not meeting work expectations were regularly on display, as employees lost their jobs and got escorted out of the warehouse. Such sights encouraged some workers to conceal pain and push through injury lest they get fired as well, workers said.

In a statement Monday, Amazon said, "the safety and well-being of our associates is our number one priority," reports The New York Times. There seems to be a disconnect.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.