Fired for bathroom break: Amazon worker with long debilitating COVID fired for publicly speaking out against management abuse

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The World Socialist Website International Amazon Workers’ Voice recently spoke at length with Josh, a former Amazon worker in upstate New York who was fired for distributing union literature at his workplace. His experience demonstrates the culture of repression that has been fostered across corporate America as workers are treated like industrial slaves.

Josh’s Twitter posts leading up to his removal show Amazon’s authoritarian actions. The 40-year-old’s Twitter posts about the BUF9 warehouse have gone viral. A tweet, posted Aug. 28, said he “got in trouble” for defying a rule that requires a worker to “get permission” from a manager to go to the bathroom. The post has been shared over 25,000 times.

“Today Amazon gave me a verbal warning about going to the bathroom while I was not on a break,” he said. said“They turned me down, so I went anyway and got in trouble. I think I [to quit]. It’s inhuman,” he said. Shortly after, Josh said he was hunt from Amazon grounds by security as he handed out union flyers in his break room.

Josh explained this situation to the IAWV. “About two weeks ago [Amazon] held a meeting explaining that there would be no bathroom breaks unless you saw a personal assistant [Process Assistant].”

victimized Amazon employee Josh (Twitter Post)

The new procedure forces Amazon workers to search for the nearest available AP, of which there is “perhaps one in a thousand people” on the floor at any given time, in a warehouse “the size of a mall commercial”.

Amazon, the logistics giant that has boosted its industrial and enterprise net worth to more than $1 trillion during the pandemic, is known for its “dystopian” and pervasive screening system at each of its warehouses. Workers are greeted by a global surveillance and control system designed to track their speed and efficiency and stifle their every effort to organize and defend themselves.

“The atomization of the warehouses…the layout and the algorithms almost seemed designed to isolate employees from each other,” says Alec MacGillis in Fulfillment, a 2020 book on Amazon.

Amazon’s abuses were not only cruel, but illegal. A 2021 California state law says operators of “warehouse fulfillment centers” cannot enforce rules that prevent “compliance with meal or rest periods, use of washroom facilities, including including reasonable travel time to and from sanitary facilities, or occupational health and safety laws. “However, that’s exactly what happens in Amazon’s hundreds of warehouses.

When Josh defied this new rule and his revelations went viral on social media, management started targeting him. This included direct attacks on him online and in person.

“Vice News, Business Insider, they’ve all reached out to me,” he said. “They also all contacted Amazon,” alerting the company to his posts. Before security kicked him out of the Amazon premises, “my boss ushered me into his office. He closed the door and made sure no one was looking. He had all the information on the news,” he said.

Having seen his abuses publicly exposed, the official sought a “compromise” with the worker. “He said if I wanted to go to the bathroom, I could come and tell him in his office” directly. Josh refused this offer on principle. This started the threats and intimidation.

“Amazon [managers] responded to my personal Twitter,” he said. “They called me ‘stupid’, all kinds of names.” Josh recalled a manager approaching him in person and confirming his conduct online. “A guy who introduced himself as a manager came to see me in the warehouse,” he explained. “He claimed that I had given him a [union] prospectus. He also said that “half” of the building’s management responded to his post on Twitter.

“I was verbally terminated,” he explained, saying his boss had asked security to kick him out of the building. In mid-September, Josh received documents indicating that he had been fired.

“This letter confirms that your involuntary termination date from Amazon Services LLC is September 11, 2022,” it says. No further details were provided regarding the cause of the shooting.

Attempts to appeal to the state for help proved futile. According to the worker, the local Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) office “laughed” at his requests to open a case against the employer.

“I called OSHA. It took many calls. It seems like there’s only one guy handling all the cases apparently in this area,” he said. The only OSHA representative “was pissed that I didn’t have phone numbers for them, but Amazon doesn’t give us a number. It made him very mad. I had to call back several times until he agreed to open a file. I don’t know if they did and I’ve never heard of them.

“It felt like a joke the whole process. They [OSHA] just refused to help me. I have no case number or anything, and they never called back or sent anything.

Josh had fallen into a system that is massively stacked in favor of the company and for which there are few remedies. According to the National Employment Law Project, “OSHA’s response to the thousands upon thousands of complaints it has received [during the pandemic] of terrified workers across the country alleging that employers are not following safe infection control practices, has been weak.

“There is little the agency can do,” says the report, which was released in April 2020. “Despite a promise from the Trump administration that the number of occupational safety and health inspectors would increase by 2019, OSHA now has the fewest number of onboard inspectors in 45 years. The report states that “at this staffing level, it would take the agency 165 years to inspect every workplace under its jurisdiction just once.”

This situation has not improved significantly under the Biden administration. In June, the National Board of Occupational Safety and Health sent an open letter to the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, citing a “lack of consistent and aggressive enforcement of existing safety laws” alongside “ever greater threats” posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. , heat and weather crises and other urgent developments. The national groups are asking for, among other things, an additional $100 million in annual funding for OSHA.

The letter cites an April 2022 AFL-CIO report that ranks “transportation and warehousing” as one of the nation’s most dangerous industries.

The Biden administration provided a paltry $20 million funding boost to OSHA last year, a mere drop in the bucket toward what could be considered a minimum level of adequate funding for the agency.

For Josh, the issue of workplace safety takes on increased importance. The young worker’s struggles with the debilitating Long COVID have also drawn considerable attention on social media.

“I have bad asthma,” he explains. “I had trouble with it before, but never to the point of needing an inhaler.”

Like many people with this debilitating, multi-system disease, Josh can no longer exercise. “I’m 40, but I have the lungs of an octogenarian. My insurance won’t cover [the cost of inhalers and treatment]. Before COVID-19, stores are always “out of stock”. I currently have four “puffs” left in my inhaler to get me through tomorrow. »

“COVID-19 has ruined my life. Before, I studied nature and horticulture. Now I hope I won’t be forced to sell my house,” due to the combined impact of job loss and victimization that occurred at the hands of Amazon.

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