Bernie Sanders has announced a US Senate investigation into working conditions at Amazon warehouses in an open letter to Andy Jassy, the e-commerce giant’s CEO.
The independent Vermont senator, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, accuses Amazon of failing to meet federal and state safety recommendations and putting business performance before workers.
“The company’s quest for profits at all costs has led to unsafe physical environments, intense pressure to work at unsustainable rates, and inadequate medical attention for tens of thousands of Amazon workers every year,” Sanders writes.
His letter demands that Amazon share information about injury and turnover rates at its warehouses, the pace of work it demands of warehouse employees, and the medical care it provides them.
A representative for Amazon criticized the letter and said the company had made progress on workplace safety, pointing to Amazon’s internal report on workplace safety data from 2022.
“We’ve reviewed the letter and strongly disagree with Senator Sanders’ assertions,” Maureen Lynch Vogel, a senior public relations manager at Amazon said in a email to Quartz. The company also reiterated an open invitation for Sanders to tour one of its warehouses.
The investigation comes as the newly formed Amazon Labor Union has made improved worker safety one of its top demands. Amazon, which has been the target of several investigations by the US Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), received fines for unsafe conditions at nine warehouses last winter.
Also, a recent report by the Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of labor unions that has analyzed publicly available OSHA data, found that Amazon warehouse staff suffered serious injuries at twice the rate of their peers at rival companies. In fact, last year they recorded more of them than all other US warehouse workers, despite the fact that the company only employs about a third of the country’s warehouse labor force.
“Amazon is one of the most valuable companies in the world worth $1.3 trillion and its founder, Jeff Bezos, is one of the richest men in the world worth nearly $150 billion. Amazon should be one of the safest places in America to work, not one of the most dangerous. If Amazon can afford to spend $6 billion on stock buybacks last year, it can afford to make sure that its warehouses are safe places to work.” —from Bernie Sanders’ letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy
1 million: US workers on the payroll at Amazon, making it the second-largest domestic employer. Walmart is first, with nearly 2.2 million employees.
1.52 million: Workers employed by Amazon worldwide, meaning roughly two thirds of its staff are in the US.
162,000: Amazon employees in California, the company’s largest state for workers.
Editors note (6/21, 9:45am): This article was updated with a comment from a representative from Amazon.