Letter to Congress: Call In Amazon CEO Andy Jassy to Testify on Warehouse Worker Safety Crisis

September 1, 2022

The Honorable Chuck Schumer
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Patty Murray
Chair, Senate Committee on Health, Labor & Pensions
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Richard Burr
Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Health, Labor & Pensions
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Robert “Bobby” C. Scott
Chair, House Committee on Education and Labor
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Virginia Foxx
Ranking Member, House Committee on Education and Labor
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, Chair Murray, Ranking Member Burr, Chair Scott, and Ranking Member Foxx:

Following the tragic deaths of 3 workers in just 3 weeks in New Jersey Amazon facilities last month, as well as 34,000 serious injuries among Amazon workers across the country just last year, we write to strongly urge your committees to exercise your oversight responsibility by convening a public emergency congressional hearing, and asking questions of the individuals responsible for the dangerous labor practices that are causing these injuries and deaths, including Amazon CEO Andy Jassy.

Despite Amazon Founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos’ public commitment to make Amazon “Earth’s Safest Place to Work”, injuries among Amazon workers have increased year over year: by 20% from 2020 to 2021 across the country, and acutely in states like in New Jersey, where injury rates at the company’s fulfillment centers increased by 54% from 2020 to 2021.

In fact, year after year, Amazon leads in workplace injuries. A 2019 report found that workers at Amazon suffered serious injuries at rates 5 times the national average for all private industries. In 2020, an investigation in Minnesota found that no industry in Minnesota had a higher average injury rate than an Amazon fulfillment center in Shakopee.

This is all the more concerning because as the second largest private employer in the country, Amazon and its labor practices have an outsized impact on our economy, and in the warehousing industry in particular. A report from the Strategic Organizing Center found that while the corporation employed one-third of the country’s warehouse workers in 2021, the company was responsible for nearly one-half (49%) of all injuries in the warehouse industry. In fact, the serious injury rate at Amazon warehouses in 2021 was more than twice as high as the rate at non-Amazon warehouses across the country.

Workers at Amazon have long known what regulators and legislators are realizing about the cause of these injuries and deaths: they are a direct result of Amazon’s unsafe pace of work and anti-union stance. Regulators in Washington state found a “direct connection” between injuries at warehouses and Amazon’s insistence that workers “maintain a very high pace of work.” Public health experts have also found that Amazon’s productivity quotas and constant surveillance exerts a dangerous physical and mental toll on its workers.

Additionally, concerns about high temperatures inside of Amazon facilities have been raised by workers, not just in connection to the passing of Rafael Reynaldo Mota, but across the country from California to Tennessee to Washington. High ambient temperatures at a workstation, compounded by productivity quotas and limited breaks, increase the danger of heat-related illness, injury and death. Under these conditions, workers can develop heat exhaustion, muscle death, acute kidney injury and fatal heatstroke, and overheating can also trigger other events like renal failure, stroke, COPD and cardiac arrest. Workers can experience fatigue, dizziness, distraction, loss of balance and coordination, fainting, muscle cramps and a number of other heat stress symptoms that increase worker injuries like falling from ladders, vehicle accidents and accidents with machinery and tools.

In response to these dangerous and deadly conditions, Amazon workers across the country have been organizing for better conditions and to protect their colleagues. Yet at every step, Amazon has aggressively attempted to undermine those efforts with retaliation, union-busting, and by creating a climate of fear.

For years, Amazon has intentionally misrepresented the health and safety crisis its workers face — to workers, the public, shareholders, and lawmakers alike. In 2020, Reveal News found internal records that show Amazon executives intentionally hid its safety crisis from the public and lawmakers. In June, members of the House Oversight Committee alleged that Amazon obstructed a Congressional investigation into the death of 6 workers due to the company’s negligence during a tornado that caused the Amazon facility in Edwardsville, Illinois to collapse. In July, the Strategic Organizing Center requested that the Securities and Exchange Commission investigate CEO Andy Jassy’s false and misleading statements about the company’s injury rates to shareholders. And just three weeks ago, Amazon attempted to pass off responsibility in Rafael’s death by claiming it was due to a “personal medical condition.”

It is time for Amazon to learn, once and for all, that it is not above the law. We are hopeful that the federal investigations by OSHA and the Department of Justice will hold Amazon accountable, and mandate significant changes to Amazon’s unsafe management practices. At the same time, we call on your leadership in Congress to protect the health and safety of workers by bringing Amazon and Andy Jassy before Congress to answer for the well-documented health and safety crisis at the company’s fulfillment centers.

Thank you for your consideration, and your leadership on the Senate Committee on Health, Labor & Pensions and the House Committee on Education and Labor. At this time when workers across the country are speaking out and fighting for better pay, improved working conditions, and more dignity on the job, Americans are looking to you to fulfill your mandate to protect and empower workers.

Sincerely,

Athena Coalition
Action Center on Race and the Economy
ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York
Alphabet Workers Union-CWA
American Muslim Bar Association
Backbone Campaign
​​Center on Policy Initiatives
Center for Popular Democracy
Community Labor United
Demos
Fight for the Future
Grassroots Collaborative
Human Impact Partners
Illinois Green New Deal Coalition
Jobs With Justice
Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE)
Make the Road New Jersey
Mijente
Missouri Workers Center
Muslim Counterpublics Lab
National Council for Occupational Safety and Health
National Employment Law Project
New York Communities for Change
NJ Work Environment Council
OLE
Open Markets Institute
Peoples Collective for Environmental Justice
PowerSwitch Action
Queer Crescent
​​Surveillance Technology Oversight Project
United for Respect
Warehouse Worker Resource Center
Worksafe

cc: All Members of the Senate Committee on Health, Labor & Pensions and House Committee on Education and Labor

Unlisted

Athena is a coalition working together to break the dangerous stranglehold of corporate power over our democracy, economy, and planet. @athenaforall

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Athena

Athena is a coalition working together to break the dangerous stranglehold of corporate power over our democracy, economy, and planet. @athenaforall