Nearly half of all injuries recorded in U.S. warehouses last year occurred on Amazon, according to a report released by a coalition of unions on Tuesday. The e-commerce giant has grown with increasing demand for home delivery during the epidemic, but has also faced criticism over the condition of workers and its labor practices.
According to the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC), “Amazon employed one-third of all warehouse workers in the United States, but it accounted for nearly half (49 percent) of all injuries in the warehouse industry.”
The SOC report said more than 34,000 U.S. Amazon employees were “seriously injured” at work last year, more than double the number of warehouses owned by the company.
Amazon acknowledged the increase in the number of injuries as thousands of employees joined its workforce, but argued that the number of injuries to its people had decreased.
“Like other companies in the industry, we’ve seen a record increase in injuries during this period from 2020 to 2021 because we’ve trained a lot of new people,” the company said.
“However, when you compare 2021 to 2019, our record-breaking injury rate has dropped by more than 13 percent a year,” it added.
The alliance says it relies on data provided by Amazon to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration – the federal agency responsible for workplace injury prevention.
“After relaxing some of its disciplinary measures in the first months of the COVID-19 epidemic, Amazon re-applied its surveillance systems and production pressures towards the end of 2020, and its injury rate increased significantly,” the SOC said.
Recruitment to Amazon has increased during the epidemic.
In the U.S., the company reported more than 900 employees in 2021 from more than 700 sites in 2020 and more than 560,000 in 2021 from more than 200,000 employees in 2017, according to the report.
In June 2021, Amazon changed working conditions, including long breaks, for its employees who prepared, shipped and delivered packages.
The decision comes after previous heinous SOC reports and attempts to unionize an Amazon warehouse in Alabama. It failed, but the campaign revealed what many employees described as the company’s rapid pace.
In an annual letter to shareholders in 2020, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos wrote, “We need a better vision for the success of our employees.”
“We are going to be the best employers in the world and the safest place in the world to work,” he promised.
But “in stark contrast to Jeff Bezos’ recent promise … the injury rate at Amazon facilities increased by 20 percent between 2020 and 2021,” the SOC said.
Amazon workers in New York have voted to launch the first U.S. union in the e-commerce giant, a move that has angered a company that has steadfastly opposed organized labor in its huge workforce.