Amazon became the second company in the world to hit the US$1 trillion mark Tuesday after a rise in the share price listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange in the United States. However, those who enable the company's global operations are facing nightmarish conditions due to low wages and terrible working conditions.
Amazon went public at US$18 a share in 1997. Two decades later each share was valued at US$2,050, a shift that has made Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos the world's, and history's, wealthiest man.
A 2018 report published by the non-profit National Council for Occupational Safety and Health recently argued “His (Bezos') vast wealth depends, in large part, on a business model that features a relentless work pace and constant monitoring of employees. These workplace characteristics, coupled with the lack of an intentional health and safety system program, are a recipe for disaster.”
Amazon, which operates 175 centers around the world and employs over 550,000 people, has been included in the "Dirty Dozen" list of the 12 worst companies to work for due to the abuses its workers sustain.
Earlier this month, an Amazon worker told NBC News that the company had minimized a back injury she sustained at work by not sending her to a doctor, and had not paid her during the dispute for workers’ compensation. Lack of payment during the disagreement pushed the woman into homelessness.
An investigation by The Guardian revealed numerous cases of Amazon workers suffering from work-related accidents or injuries in its warehouse system and being treated poorly by the company.
At least seven people have died at Amazon warehouses since 2013. Injuries and deaths are attributed to constant surveillance and a crippling fear of missing targets, which can lead to a permanent loss of the job.
Other forms of humiliation, such as monitored bathroom breaks that lead workers to urinate in bins and plastic bottles to avoid being reprimanded, have also been reported.
In April, Amazon workers in Germany protested the company’s tax policy and low wages. In July, during Amazon Prime Day, Amazon warehouse workers in Germany, Spain, and Poland walked out of their jobs in protest of poor working conditions.