Olivia Peluso is an English senior and Mustang News opinion editor. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
In the midst of the pandemic, Amazon has provided reliable delivery for products such as milk, eggs, and toilet paper to those who are afraid or unable to leave their homes. However, while they should be applauded for their quick adaptability to our rapidly-changing state of affairs, Amazon is not an ethical — nor even decent — company to support.
If you feel comfortable, I truly believe infrequent trips to your local supermarket are smarter than ordering from Amazon. If you are an at-risk individual, there are delivery services in place that are safer alternatives to Amazon. Shipt has a local branch that delivers both food, home, and medical products purchased from stores in the community. Vons also delivers groceries locally. House of Bread can deliver fresh loaves, Art Central on Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo is delivering supplies throughout the county and Mama Ganache is delivering chocolates by mail nationwide. Additionally, many local restaurants are offering meals for curbside pickup or delivery. I would suggest exploring all of these options before resorting to Amazon for your groceries.
Amazon employees have demanded better treatment for years; yet, they have consistently sidelined demands and ruthlessly discouraged any collective action from employees. The pandemic has heightened stress for employees across the board, who now face the choice between their health and their paychecks. March 23 brought a major victory for workers when Amazon extended its paid-leave policy to part-time and seasonal workers.
Amazon is offering two weeks of paid leave to employees who are diagnosed with COVID-19. However, as we know, the real number of cases and infected individuals remains wildly ambiguous due to limited access to testing. Even then, many have been turned away from testing or treatment for being “too young” or whose symptoms are “not severe.”
Some only display mild symptoms, which become easy to ignore when your wage is on the line. While Amazon’s corporate employees were sent home, the individuals on the floor are still subjected to unsafe working conditions. The pickers, packers and delivery-persons are expected to come to work despite outbreaks in at least 21 facilities. While some employees have chosen to forego paychecks in favor of their safety, according to Wired, others continue to arrive at their shifts despite probable exposure because they cannot afford to lose their jobs.
Due to soaring demands, Amazon has pledged to hire 100,000 temporary workers to tackle deliveries.While they focus their efforts on recruitment, their current employees have been demanding safer working conditions and health protections in the event of illness. Thousands of employees have signed a petition seeking improvements, while the attorney generals of 14 different states have sent a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos urging the company to loosen their sick-leave policies.
At a warehouse in Staten Island, Amazon workers walked out on strike after a fellow employee tested positive, the Washington Post reported. What did Amazon do? They fired one of the organizers, a man named Chris Smalls, and pledged to simply hire new employees. On Thursday, handwritten memos from an Amazon executive meeting leaked to Vice News discuss tactics to use Smalls as a target to discredit the wider labor union movement at Amazon.
“He’s not smart, or articulate, and to the extent the press wants to focus on us versus him, we will be in a much stronger PR position than simply explaining for the umpteenth time how we’re trying to protect workers,” the note written by Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky state, according Vice.
The glaring issue with Amazon is the entire foundation of their practices. They capitalize on a pandemic and shortcut safety precautions for employees and instead focus their efforts on targeting one individual who spoke on behalf of a warehouse, of an entire Amazon workforce nationwide. Luckily, the meeting does discuss obtaining masks for employees, but it also discusses using masks as yet more PR leverage if they “donate strategically.”
This is a company that is worth $1 trillion. They can afford to provide adequate protection and benefits to employees, and instead, their executive meetings discuss a string of PR stunts. “He’s not smart or articulate” is incredibly immature and offensive; it’s a classist attempt to quell unionized action and demands for safer conditions.
Amazon is not what I would call ethical by any means, and the way they are treating their employees exposes the company’s true colors. They market their services as if to be a lifeline for at-risk individuals while continuously putting their employees at risk. Their delivery services are an incredibly huge help to immunocompromised individuals — yet, their products and delivery-persons come from a staff that has potentially been (and carelessly) exposed to the virus and forced to continue working regardless. Drivers for the Amazon delivery say that the frantic pace of the job requires that they shortcut preventative measures such as wearing gloves and masks or sanitizing, according to Reuters.
Amazon clearly is not the savior they are posed to be; rather, they are using the crisis as a means of profit. As of March 2020, Amazon is worth $1 trillion, and Bezos alone has made $6 billion since the outbreak. While other citizens including CEOs, small business owners and the workers are all facing economic hardship as a result of unprecedented market volatility, Bezos has managed to capitalize on the catastrophe. And yet, he cannot provide adequate paid leave for his employees, let alone hand sanitizer.
There are smarter ways to stay stocked without breaking quarantine. If you are not a particularly at-risk individual, I suggest severely limiting your trips to the store and purchasing dry food items such as pasta and beans that will last an indefinite amount of time. Last week, I saw a group of three leave the grocery store with one bag of Cheetos. This is an example of exactly what not to do. Instead, communicate with who you share a space with and wait to shop until you are lacking necessities.
You will keep yourself safer, you will support local business, and you will not be putting money into the pocket of a man that disregards the safety of his staff for profit. The disparity between Amazon’s convenient services and stringent labor practices has never been so stark, and it’s time we hold them accountable.