Amazon faces Senate probe over warehouse safety

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Amazon’s warehouse working conditions, which have come under increased scrutiny in recent years, are now at the heart of a congressional probe being led by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

In a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, Sanders, who chairs the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said the e-retailer’s “quest for profits at all costs” has caused warehouse employees to experience unsafe working environments without access to adequate medical attention.

“Amazon is well aware of these dangerous conditions, the life-altering consequences for workers injured on the job, and the steps the company could take to reduce the significant risks of injury,” wrote Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democratic party. “Yet the company has made a calculated decision not to implement adequate worker protections because Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, and you, his successor as Chief Executive Officer, have created a corporate culture that treats workers as disposable.”

Steve Kelly, an Amazon spokesperson, told CNBC in a statement that the company strongly disagrees with Sanders’ claims in the letter. Separately, the company said Sanders has been invited to tour one of Amazon’s warehouses.

Sanders called on Jassy to turn over more information related to Amazon’s injury and turnover rates, as well as data on its on-site medical clinic, called AMCARE, dating back to 2019. He also asked Jassy to say whether Amazon has, internally or through a third party, examined “the connection between the pace of work of its warehouse workers and the prevalence or cost of injuries at its warehouses.”

Sanders said Jassy has until July 5 to respond to the inquiry. The HELP committee posted a form on its website seeking testimonials from current and former Amazon employees about their experiences at the company.

Amazon faces ongoing federal probes into its safety record beyond the Senate’s actions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Attorney’s Office are investigating conditions at several warehouses, while the U.S. Department of Justice is also examining whether Amazon underreports injuries.

Amazon says it has made progress on reducing injuries across its U.S. operations and continues to invest in safety initiatives, projects and programs. It has also appealed a string of citations issued by OSHA in recent months around safety hazards and violations.

Under Sanders’ leadership, the HELP committee has taken aim at other companies’ workplace records. Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz testified in front of the committee in March after Sanders repeatedly criticized the coffee chain’s handling of workers’ unionization efforts. Sanders has also been a frequent critic of Amazon’s labor practices, hosting a Senate Budget Committee hearing in May of last year and inviting Bezos to discuss the company’s approach to unions.

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