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Our Relationship With Amazon

This picture shows the Amazon logo at one of the company's centre in Bretigny-sur-Orge.
This picture shows the Amazon logo at one of the company's centre in Bretigny-sur-Orge.

Over the last decade, one company has become virtually indispensable in American life.

That company is Amazon. Even if you’re not one of the millions of members of Amazon Prime, or you don’t shop at Whole Foods, you may still be putting money in the company’s pocket via Amazon Web Services, the website hosting and software platform the company runs.

Many critics of the company are saying Amazon has gotten far too influential and have raised concerns about how its warehouse workers and delivery drivers are treated.

But a unionization drive in a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, is raising new questions about what accountability means for the company and where that accountability could come from.

Why has Amazon become such a big part of American life? What’s it like to work for the company? And what responsibility do we have to Amazon employees as consumers?

We asked Amazon to participate in this conversation. They offered to provide a worker of their choosing, but we declined because we wanted to speak to an Amazon spokesperson. It was our decision to talk to workers that were contacted and vetted by us, not by the company we’re covering. Amazon declined to provide a representative, but they did provide statements  which we’ll get to. But the invitation for a spokesperson to join us still stands. 

 And perhaps to further illustrate how entangled we all are with Amazon  Amazon and Amazon Web Services are financial supporters of NPR and WAMU.

Response from Amazon regarding the union drive in Bessemer

“RWDSU membership has fallen 25% during Stuart Appelbaum’s tenure, but that’s no justification for Mr. Appelbaum to misrepresent the facts. Our employees know the truth—starting wages of $15 or more, health care from day one, and a safe and inclusive workplace. We encouraged all of our employees to vote, and their voices will be heard in the days ahead.”

Response from Amazon regarding COVID-19 safety for frontline employees

“Nothing’s more important than the health and safety of our employees. In 2020, we invested $11.5 billion on COVID-related initiatives to keep employees safe and to get products to customers, which included the introduction of over 150 process changes—providing masks, temperature screening, plexiglas shields, disinfectant spraying, increasing the size of our cleaning teams, social distance measures, and creating an on-site testing program, to name just a few.”

Copyright 2021 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.