From today’s Buzzfeed News:
In May 2022, Daniel Olayiwola, a 29-year-old picker at an Amazon warehouse in San Antonio, spoke at the company’s shareholder meeting. As an employee, he held a small number of vested stock options that he was able to buy, making him an official shareholder, but a warehouse worker had never introduced a proposal at the annual gathering before, which is typically dominated by the major investors focused on Amazon’s plans to raise profits and dividends.
Near the end of the virtual meeting, Amazon’s moderator played the two-minute recording Olayiwola had sent in advance. In the statement, Olayiwola said he was proposing a resolution to end the company’s “injury crisis” by getting rid of the productivity quotas and surveillance mechanisms that push workers to prioritize speed over safety out of fear of losing their jobs.
“I’ve personally felt the physical toll of working for Amazon,” he said in the recording. “I’ve seen my coworkers work themselves to exhaustion.”
The resolution he submitted included citations of news investigations, research studies, and a government inspection report collectively showing that injury rates at Amazon warehouses were higher than at non-Amazon warehouses thanks to conditions that sometimes violated labor laws.
In the overview it sent to shareholders before the meeting, Amazon argued against calls for policy change by noting that its “worker incident rate” had declined since 2019. “Safety is integral to everything we do at Amazon, as demonstrated by our relentless focus on health and safety training, engagement with employees, and refinement of our processes to improve working conditions,” the company stated. “Our commitment to supporting our employees’ well-being and success is demonstrated through our competitive compensation and employee benefits.”
In a statement responding to questions for this story, Amazon spokesperson Sam Stephenson defended the company’s productivity expectations, which he said are “based on time and tenure, peer performance, and adherence to safe work practices,” and its use of surveillance, which he said is “common practice at nearly every major retailer in the world” and helps “ensure employee safety, inventory quality, or protect against theft.”
Read the complete story here.