Amazon and the Unethical Treatment of Employees

Eliyana Abraham, Multimedia Editor

Today, 49 percent of all U.S e-Commerce happens on Amazon is at the top of nearly every sales industry, including video and music streaming, as well as digital ads. However, to continue to dominate the markets and fulfill its ever-expanding ambitions, the company pushes its employees to their physical limits, creating a Darwinian fight for survival in a bruising workplace focused on one thing — efficiency.
Various articles have surfaced in the past few years describing the competitive and brutal nature of the Amazon workplace. In a 2015 New York Times article, Bob Olson, a former Amazon Books Marketing employee, said then that “nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.” Recently, the company has come under fire for providing inadequate wages and benefits to their employees, with politicians like Bernie Sanders leading the argument.
Amazon workers face a grueling day of 12 hours minimum, with few breaks and a lack of balance between their personal and work lives. An account executive in Seattle said of CEO Jeff Bezos on Glassdoor, “In 1863 Lincoln freed the slaves and in 1995 Jeff Bezos found a loophole.” Bezos, the richest man in the world, carries unprecedented wealth, while paying his workers poor wages under harsh conditions. In response to the criticisms of Sanders and others, the company recently raised wages to $15 an hour, but in turn cut bonuses and stock awards.
Undoubtedly, the company’s growth comes at a cost; one the employees are paying for. Drivers and warehouse employees reportedly work punishing hours under such pressure to perform that they struggle to find time to carry out the most basic of tasks at work. One former employee interviewed by CBS News stated that while working he noticed a Coke bottle full of straw-colored liquid, which upon smelling, he discovered was urine. Employees felt such immense pressure to perform that even a bathroom break would not be allotted for.
Beyond Amazon’s treatment of workers, the company’s growth is concerning to many who feel the company may be on its way to becoming a monopoly. Unlike other big companies, it is difficult to understand the vast range of areas tech companies like Amazon have control over, therefore antitrust laws become less effective and lines become blurred.
A main tactic of Amazon is rooted in its willingness to lose profit in order gain market share. If unable to buy out competitors directly, Amazon will often slash their own prices and offer extreme deals, bleeding hundreds of millions of dollars, in order to make their prices so low, their competitors are left with no choice but to sell to Amazon. This tactic of undercutting competitors at your own loss is called predatory pricing, a method Amazon has been using since its creation in 1994.
However, since Amazon still provides competitive prices and excellent services to their consumers, it is difficult to say that the company is breaking the cardinal rule of antitrust, making it difficult to pin the company legally, even as it harms other businesses. This year, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health named Amazon one of the top 12 worst places to work.
This holiday season, more than half a million Amazon workers are working grueling hours under harsh conditions, while estranged from their personal lives and families. As companies grow and services improve, customers must remember that this growth comes at a great cost.