Writer and journalist Jessa Crispin found herself at the receiving end of a Twitter attack from online shopping giant Amazon, after exposing their appalling treatment of workers.
“It’s not the first time that Amazon has been quite aggressive towards its critics,” Crispin said.
“Of course, it wasn’t just me. It was also Senator Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders. They were really lashing out for several days, it was very funny.”
Phoning in from the U.S city of Baltimore, Crispin spoke with On the Job with Francis Leach and Sally Rugg to give some insight to the worker-led campaign against Amazon.
Crispin has been reporting on Amazon’s mistreatment of workers for a number of years. Among the catalogue of worker abuses is the issue of bathroom breaks.
“One of the recurring stories about Amazon employees is that they are not given enough break time to use the restroom,” Crispin explained.
“[For] the warehouse workers, the bathrooms are so far away in distance from where people are working, that they can’t get there and back in the span of time of 15 minutes. And with the drivers, it is often that they are given so many packages to deliver in such a short amount of time that they can’t stop for bathroom breaks.
“So, what you get is people peeing in plastic bottles, or dehydrating themselves, essentially throughout the workday in order to not need to go to the bathroom.
“This story has been in rotation for a long time, because it’s been a recurring problem that Amazon refuses to solve… they deny that it’s a problem instead.”
As well as denying workers basic amenities, Amazon have been going to extraordinary lengths to prevent workers from unionising.
“Amazon has been notorious for union busting for a very long time.
“Right now, their primary tactic for preventing unionisation is mostly just by surveillance – they create a heat map of their warehouses in order to show them if a lot of people are in the same space where they could be having conversations about unionising,” Crispin said.
This hasn’t been enough to stop some Amazon workers, with warehouse staff in Alabama holding a ballot to unionise last week. The result of the vote is still unknown but according to Crispin, speaks of a promising trend in America.
“There has been a sort of strengthening of unions within America, which … for lots of reasons, were in decline for decades.
“But in the last 10 years, you’ve seen a lot of different workplaces of a lot of different industries start to renew the union process.”