Senator Bernie Sanders has launched an investigation into Amazon, citing allegations of dangerous and illegal working conditions in its distribution warehouses. As the chair of the health, education, labor and pension Senate committee, Sanders wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy demanding more information about worker injuries, turnover, productivity targets, and adherence to federal and state regulations. Sanders also highlighted a report by a group of labor unions that showed Amazon’s serious injury rate was double the industry average in 2021 and requested that Jassy and Amazon respond by July 5.
Amazon said in a statement that it was reviewing the letter and underlined that it had reduced workplace injuries by 23% since 2019. Amazon’s warehouses have faced scrutiny for years, with workers speaking out about unsafe conditions, high turnover, and injury risks, often in the name of efficiency. Most recently, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined three Amazon warehouses a total of $60,269 in January for putting workers at risk of sprains, strains, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
At the start of his role as HELP committee chairman in January, Sanders sent a letter to former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, demanding he end its union-busting campaign, alleging the company was refusing to bargain in good faith with workers who wanted to unionize. Pressured by an upcoming Senate vote to subpoena him, Schultz agreed to appear for a hearing before Sanders in March, where he denied any union-busting practices.
Sanders told the Washington Post it's "an absolute possibility" that he may attempt to call Jassy or Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to testify in a similar hearing. According to a report from labor union coalition Strategic Organizing Center, Amazon had roughly 39,000 injuries in its warehouses in 2022, with an injury rate 70% higher than the rate of non-Amazon warehouse workers. The report also found that Amazon had twice the number of serious injuries compared with the warehouse industry, which Amazon has publicly disputed because there's no regulatory metric called "serious injury rate."