Attorney General Keith Ellison
Minnesota Office of Attorney General
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN
Dear Mr. Ellison,
Amazon has become the subject of intense scrutiny for poor working conditions inside its warehouses and fulfillment centers, but little has been done to actually protect the more than 125,000 Americans working inside the company’s facilities. While lawmakers and regulators at the federal level have an important role to play, state attorneys general, with the unique ability to marshal resources locally, have a unique opportunity and obligation to lead the way in holding Amazon accountable.
We at the Free & Fair Markets Initiative (FFMI), a nonprofit watchdog, urge you to take a critical first step by installing an oversight team to actively monitor conditions at Minnesota warehouses during this year’s annual Prime Day shopping event, when workers are forced to fulfill orders at breakneck speed.
Stories of worker deaths and Amazon’s callous response to worker injuries, disability accommodation needs, and quality of life are all too common. In fact, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health has named Amazon at the top of their “Dirty Dozen” list for two years in a row, citing worker deaths caused by unsafe working conditions, inadequate emergency response plans, unsafe and unrealistic productivity requirements, and the company’s heavy reliance on temporary employees. Reports of Amazon warehouse workers experiencing extreme psychological distress, including suicide attempts, due to poor working conditions and the punishing pace demanded of them, are disturbingly common even outside peak seasons.
In fact, Amazon workers in a Minnesota fulfillment center are planning on striking this Prime Day to draw attention to the company’s grueling working conditions.
This year’s Prime Day will run for two days, from July 15-16. With high temperatures experienced in warehouses in the summer, longer hours for regular employees, and the addition of more temporary employees on the warehouse floors, some minor injuries are to be expected. But they should not be accepted – particularly when they are preventable.
Minnesota officials should be actively monitoring Amazon warehouses and issuing meaningful sanctions against the company for violations of wage and hour laws and safety and health regulations. This Prime Day is a prime time for Minnesota to start that monitoring by conducting inspections of Amazon warehouses before Prime Day; stationing health and safety inspectors at all warehouses owned and/or significantly controlled by Amazon; and conducting remote due diligence such as monitoring emergency medical calls from Amazon facilities.
Amazon is one of the largest employers in the world. It can afford to be a responsible, and even a good and caring employer to the workers of Minnesota.
Thank you in advance for accepting our request and taking seriously the threats Amazon poses to Minnesota’s workforce.