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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

The hypocrisy of Amazon


Capitalism produces horrific working conditions

The American dream is so deeply ingrained in our country’s roots to the point where billionaires are glorified. People believe that the top earners are hardworking and exemplify the best of our country. But what we ignore is what goes into making a billionaire: generational wealth, a generous starting donation and most importantly, the ruthless exploitation of their workers. The perfect example of this is Jeff Bezos. 

The story of Bezos starting his trillion dollar company from his garage is often used to promote the fact that anyone can make it in America. What is usually left out from this story is his Princeton University degree and his $250,000 investment from his parents. Now, his company is worth over $1 trillion and he is the first person whose net worth has surpassed $200 billion (it has since dropped to $183 billion). He makes $2,219 per second, which is over double what the average U.S. worker makes in a week.

 It’s bizarre to me that Bezos is making more than he could spend in a lifetime. As of January 2019, there are 567,715 people suffering from homelessness in America. Our country’s poverty rates are high, with 38 million people living in poverty, and another 93.6 million people living close to poverty; in other words 40.9% of people in America live in or close to poverty. 

In a country where there are a staggering number of people experiencing homelessness and families who are struggling to put food on the table, it seems almost dystopian that people with this level of wealth exist. Now I am not denying his intelligence, or saying he doesn’t deserve success. What I am countering is that he does not deserve the ridiculous amount of money that he has, especially considering the treatment of his workers. 

Amazon Prime Day was last week on Oct. 13 and 14. While the company has not released the total amount that they have made, third-party sellers alone generated over $3.5 billion dollars. The projected total sales are anywhere from $7.5 to $10 billion for those two days. 

While these two days are some of the most profitable for the company, they are also some of the most dangerous for the workers, with more injuries and health complaints. With the current pandemic, many of the health and safety guidelines were broken on Prime Day. Although Amazon is known for its quickness, it is surprising that in a pandemic, Amazon was able to hold its busiest day of the year to the same standard that we’ve seen in the past. A huge reason for Amazon’s speed, and success in general, is the dehumanization of their workers. 

Amazon workers are closely monitored throughout their shift. The scanners that they use are personal, digital trackers. These scan guns give them tasks and the seconds that they have to complete them. 

One former worker discussed how for a 12 hour shift, there is a 30 minute unpaid lunch break and 18 minutes, throughout the shift, to use the bathroom, get a drink of water or even just for temporarily resting. If one takes too long to complete these tasks, or even just spends too much time “off task,” their manager is alerted.

The workers are usually written up for not meeting these goals, and if they do not improve, they are fired. Some even pee in bottles because they do not want to risk taking up too much time. Amazon expects their workers to repress their humanity and exhaustion in order to get the maximum work out of them. 

Since 2016, there has been a rise of injuries in Amazon facilities. The rate of injuries is double the industry standard, with many being chronic. There have even been many reports of Amazon discouraging workers from reporting their injuries and seeking medical care along with the company covering up the death of one of its own employees, maintenance worker Phillip Lee Terry. 

After Terry was crushed to death by a forklift, an investigator found the company at fault and charged them with a $28,000 fine. To me, that sounds measly given the company’s value and that a human died on the job. But Amazon did not want to pay anything at all. They appealed all of the citations and fines, and the Indiana governor overturned all of them. Every fine was repealed, and Amazon’s claim that Terry was responsible for his own death was accepted. An innocent man did not receive justice, just so one of the richest companies in the world could save $28,000.  

Sure, Amazon pays its workers above the national minimum wage at $15 an hour, and they have decent benefits. But when looking at the horrendous working conditions, that seems like nothing. These workers are making about $35,000 a year on average. Many people, especially those with families, are barely staying afloat on these salaries. These people are being pushed to the brink of exhaustion and working in inhumane conditions. 

The people at the bottom who make the company’s efforts possible are not paid or treated well, and many face adverse, long term effects. For what? So Bezos and the people at the top can make even more gluttonous amounts of money. 

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