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US Government Goes After Amazon Over Warehouse Worker Safety

OSHA found violations at three Amazon warehouses, according to a complaint published Thursday.
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Last year became historic for Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Free Report labor relations after the National Labor Relations Board certified the vote to approve the union at the company's "JFK8" warehouse in Staten Island, New York. 

While the Amazon Labor Union's victory on April 1, 2022 opened the door for more organizing at the mammoth company, which at one point employed one out of every 153 Americans, there has been little progress in terms of union organizing since then. 

Though there has been little headline progress in labor relations at Amazon, the U.S. Department of Labor handed workers at three facilities a win on Thursday. 

The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Amazon for "failing to keep workers safe" and issued hazard alerts following inspections at the company's warehouse facilities in Deltona, Florida, Waukegan, Illinois, and New Windsor, New York. 

"Each of these inspections found work processes that were designed for speed but not safety, and they resulted in serious worker injuries," said Doug Parker, assistant secretary for occupational safety and health for OSHA. 

"While Amazon has developed impressive systems to make sure its customers' orders are shipped efficiently and quickly, the company has failed to show the same level of commitment to protecting the safety and well-being of its workers."

Amazon disagrees with OSHA's findings.

"We take the safety and health of our employees very seriously, and we strongly disagree with these allegations and intend to appeal. We’ve cooperated fully, and the government’s allegations don’t reflect the reality of safety at our sites," an Amazon spokesperson said. 

Amazon Working Conditions

OSHA's investigation found that Amazon workers were at high risk for lower back injuries as well as musculoskeletal disorders due to workers frequent lifting of packages and other items. 

While the violations do not carry stiff penalties -- Amazon faces a total of just $60,269 in proposed penalties for the violations -- OSHA hopes the shame of being named will cause Amazon to improve its working conditions at the sites. 

"Our hope is that the findings of our investigations inspire Amazon and other warehouses to make the safety and health of their workers a core value," Parker said.

It remains to be seen what changes Amazon will make in order to be in compliance with OSHA. Amazon has 15 business days to comply or contest the findings of the investigation. 

The Amazon Labor Union and the NLRB did not return requests for comment.

Amazon Job Cuts

Amazon has hundreds of thousands of warehouse workers in the U.S. as well as tens of thousands of corporate employees. 

Back in November, Amazon began cuts that are expected hit about 3% of its corporate workforce. 

In October 2022, Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said Amazon is seeing signs consumers are impacted by inflation, which is at its highest in 40 years.

"We are preparing for what could be a slower growth period,” Olsavsky told reporters after the publication of the third quarter earnings.

As a result, Amazon issued disappointing forecasts for the holidays and warned on November 2 that it would "pause on new incremental hires in our corporate workforce."

Downsizing has spread across the tech and crypto sector: Twitter  (TWTR) - Get Free Report, Coinbase  (COIN) - Get Free Report, Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Free Report, and Lyft  (LYFT) - Get Free Report have all cut jobs recently.

Alphabet  (GOOGL) - Get Free Report, Apple  (AAPL) - Get Free Report and others have either frozen or are slowing down the pace of hiring.