Amazon ‘wellness’ guide tells workers to buy shoes at the end of their shift to better fit their swollen feet

A worker packs a customer order at the 750,000-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center in Romeoville, Illinois.
A worker packs a customer order at the 750,000-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center in Romeoville, Illinois.

  • An Amazon “wellness” guide told workers to train like “industrial athletes” to perform better, Vice reported.
  • The guide gave tips like buying shoes at the end of workers’ shifts to better fit their swollen feet.
  • An ex-employee leaked the guide to Vice and he claimed Amazon told him to keep working after an injury.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon distributed a “health and wellness guide” to workers at a warehouse in Tulsa, Oklahoma, instructing them to train like “industrial athletes” in order to improve their performance on the job, Vice News reported Tuesday.

The guide, according to Vice, tells workers to “prepare their bodies” for walking “up to 13 miles a day” and lifting “a total of 20,000 pounds” during a single shift (more than 30 pounds every minute for a 10-hour shift).

The guide, Vice reported, discusses topics including nutrition, hydration, sleep, footwear, ergonomics, and injury prevention, with suggestions such as: eat five to nine servings of veggies per day, “monitor your urine color,” and buy shoes “at the end of the day when your feet are swollen to allow for plenty of room when they swell during work.”

Amazon also said in the guide, according to Vice, that workers could seek help from “injury prevention specialists” for “body discomforts that you may have as an industrial athlete.”

Amazon told Insider the guide was created “in error” and that it has “removed” the guide. It’s unclear if the guide was distributed at additional warehouses beyond the one in Tulsa.

Amazon did not respond to Insider’s follow-up questions about who was responsible for creating the guide, why no one noticed what the company claimed was a mistakenly created guide before it was distributed to workers, or when it was removed (Vice reported that the guides dated back to 2020).

Vice reported that it obtained the guide from former Amazon employee Bobby Gosvenor, who claimed the company told him to keep working even after he suffered a herniated disc – an injury he sustained due to a broken conveyer belt the company hadn’t yet fixed – and that Amazon delayed him from getting treatment for two months by forcing him to seek diagnoses from multiple doctors.

Amazon did not respond to questions about Gosvenor’s injury.

Vice’s report about Amazon’s “wellness” guide, which told workers how they should take care of themselves, comes the same day as an analysis from The Washington Post that found that Amazon is doing a significantly worse job taking care of its workers as competitors.

In 2020, about 5.9 out of every 100 Amazon employees were injured on the job, compared to 2.5 at Walmart, according to The Post’s analysis. That echoes previous reporting from Reveal and other news outlets showing that Amazon has long had higher workplace injury rates than what’s typical for its industry, and has deceived the public and regulators about those rates by underreporting injuries, delaying workers from seeking medical treatment, and assigning employees to “light duty” work in an effort to downplay the hours of labor lost due to serious injuries.

In response to The Post’s story, Amazon told Insider that the company is investing more in workplace safety and taking a number of steps to reduce injuries. One of those programs is its WorkingWell program, which includes phonebooth-sized enclosed boxes where employees can practice mindfulness.

In Jeff Bezos’ final shareholder letter as CEO, he also detailed Amazon’s plans to use algorithms to rotate workers between jobs in an effort to use all of their muscle groups rather than overloading one muscle group.

But none of Amazon’s wellness programs had previously appeared to address what some experts say is the root of its injury rates: demanding and inflexible productivity quotas, which require workers to complete a large number of tasks per shift and penalize them for “time off task.”

Amazon employees have repeatedly told Insider and other media outlets that restrictive time-off-task allocations and the fear of retaliation force them to skip bathroom breaks and pee in bottles and contribute to grueling working conditions.

On Tuesday, Amazon published a blog post saying that it would measure each worker’s time off task over a longer period of time in an effort to focus more on resolving “operational issues” relative to identifying “under-performing employees.”

However, Amazon did not commit to easing up on its productivity quotas or allowing workers more time off task.

Aiha Nguyen, a researcher at the think tank Data & Society, who studies how Amazon and other employers use technology to extract more productivity out of workers, said in a recent report that the rise of workplace surveillance – along with weakened labor law – contributes to “work speedups, overwork, and injury.”

“Amazon has been leading the pack toward technologically driven speedups,” Nguyen said, citing its time-off-task policy and a game called “Mission Racer” that Amazon created to make workers compete with each other to fulfill customer orders.

“Making work into a race contrasts with other standard and accepted principles of engineering that set rates based on the ability of an average worker or the overall workforce, not an algorithm,” Nguyen said. “As a consequence, the injury rate for warehouse workers is increasing.”

In response to The Post’s report, labor groups affiliated with Amazon workers called for the company to end its time-off-task policies.

“The stunning analysis released today is proof that Amazon’s impossible productivity requirements are unsustainable and must be brought to a swift end. Amazon’s grueling and strenuous pace of work puts workers in increased danger of serious injuries, and appallingly has been used to punish any workers who push back,” Debbie Berkowitz, director of the worker safety and health program at the National Employment Law Project, said in a statement.

“Amazon workers don’t need meditation booths. They need Amazon to end rate and Time Off Task requirements and redesign the physical layout of the jobs to provide workers with a safe workplace. Workers should not have to sacrifice their health for a paycheck,” she added.

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Uber will pay its 70,000 UK-based drivers minimum wage and benefits following a major Supreme Court defeat

uber driver prop 22
Rideshare driver Teresa Mercado raises her fist in support as app based gig workers held a driving demonstration with 60-70 vehicles blocking Spring Street in front of Los Angeles City Hall urging voters to vote no on Proposition 22 on Oct. 8, 2020.

  • Uber is reclassifying its UK-based drivers as “workers,” it said in a regulatory filing Tuesday.
  • The move requires Uber to follow minimum wage, paid vacation, and other labor laws.
  • Uber strongly opposes efforts to reclassify its drivers, but pivoted in the UK after a legal defeat.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Uber announced Tuesday it will reclassify drivers in the United Kingdom as “workers,” guaranteeing them minimum wage, paid vacation, pensions, and additional protection under the country’s labor laws.

In a statement, Uber told Insider the move will impact more than 70,000 drivers, and follows a recent unanimous Supreme Court decision that determined drivers should be classified as workers.

Uber initially downplayed the ruling, saying it “focussed on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016,” though shares of Uber dropped as much as 2% following the ruling.

With Tuesday’s announcement, Uber has opted to reclassify all UK drivers rather than fight legal battles with individual drivers about whether the court’s ruling would apply to them.

“Uber is just one part of a larger private-hire industry, so we hope that all other operators will join us in improving the quality of work for these important workers who are an essential part of our everyday lives,” Jamie Heywood, the regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, told Insider in a statement.

The move is a major shift for Uber, which has aggressively fought rulings by courts and regulators in the US that have determined drivers to be employees as opposed to contractors. In California, Uber spent at least $30 million persuading voters to pass Proposition 22, a law it co-authored that carved out an exemption from state labor laws to allow rideshare and food delivery drivers to be treated as contractors.

Unlike American law, which defines workers as employees or contractors, UK law has an additional “worker” category, which entitles workers to receive the minimum wage, paid vacation, rest breaks, and protections against illegal discrimination, retaliation for whistleblowing, and wage theft. That classification falls short of guaranteeing benefits like parental leave and severance to which full employees are entitled.

Uber said the UK minimum wage, which is slightly above $12, will serve as an “earnings floor, not an earnings ceiling” after accounting for roughly 62 cents in per-mile expenses, but that drivers won’t be paid for the time they spend waiting for a ride – which some researchers have found accounts for as much as 33% of drivers’ work.

Uber also said it will pay drivers around 12% of their earnings as vacation pay every two weeks and enroll them in a pension plan to which Uber will also contribute.

Labor advocates voiced their support for the move and the court ruling that proceeded it.

“Dear America … see what happens when a government lays it down? Is Uber leaving? No, they’re actually doing right by their workforce in the UK. Our drivers deserve this too. Why would an American company short change American workers? Because we let them!” tweeted California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the author of AB-5, the state labor law that Uber sought an exemption from by pushing Prop 22.

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Apple knew a supplier was using child labor but took 3 years to fully cut ties, despite the company’s promises to hold itself to the ‘highest standards,’ report says

Apple CEO Tim Cook in China, March 2019
  • Apple discovered that Suyin Electronics, one of its Chinese-based suppliers, relied on child labor on multiple occasions, but still took three years to fully cut ties, The Information reported on Thursday.
  • Ten former members of Apple’s supplier responsibility team told The Information the company has refused or has been slow to stop doing business with suppliers that repeatedly violate its labor policies when doing so would hurt its profits. 
  • Apple has faced intense criticism recently amid reports that it relies on forced Uyghur labor and protests over poor working conditions and wage theft by workers that make its products.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Apple is back under the spotlight over labor conditions in its supply chain following an explosive report from The Information on Thursday that revealed new details about the company’s reluctance to cut ties with suppliers who violate its ethics policies.

According to the report, Apple learned in 2013 that Suyin Electronics, a China-based company that (at the time) made parts for its MacBooks, was employing underage workers, and despite telling Suyin to address the issue or risk losing business, Apple discovered additional workers as young as 14 years old during an audit just three months later.

But rather than immediately cutting ties with Suyin for violating its supply chain ethics policies – which prohibit child labor and which Apple claims are the “highest standards” – Apple continued to rely on the company for more than three years, according to The Information.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment on this story. Suyin could not be reached for comment.

Ten former members of Apple’s supplier responsibility team told The Information that Suyin wasn’t an isolated incident, and that Apple had refused or was slow to stop doing business with suppliers that had repeatedly violated labor laws or failed to improve workplace safety when it would have cut into its profits.

Apple similarly refused to cut ties with Biel Crystal, one of its two suppliers of glass iPhone screens – despite a consistently poor workplace safety record, Apple employees’ own concerns, and Biel executives explicitly admitting that improving safety wasn’t worth it because doing so had actually led to less business from Apple – because cutting ties would have left Apple with less financial leverage over its remaining supplier, Lens Technology, according to The Information.

Biel did not respond to a request for comment.

In an illustration of just how intertwined Apple has become with unethical labor practices, The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Lens Technology itself relies on forced labor from thousands of Uyghurs that the Chinese government has displaced from their homes in Xinjiang.

While US lawmakers have proposed legislation aimed on curbing American companies’ ability to use forced Uyghur labor, Apple sought to weaken the bill, The New York Times reported last month. (Apple took issue with that claim, telling The Times that it “did not lobby against” the bill but rather had “constructive discussions” with congressional staffers).

Apple has long been criticized over the labor practices of its suppliers, particularly in China but increasingly in other countries including India, where workers at an iPhone factory rioted after accusing management of withholding their pay.

In November, Apple was also forced to cut ties with its second-largest iPhone manufacturer, Pegatron, after discovering the company had violated labor laws by relying on “student workers” who were in practice doing work that had nothing to do with their degrees.

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Amazon has reportedly been accused by the NLRB of illegally threatening and firing a worker who pushed for sick pay

FILE PHOTO: An Amazon worker delivers packages amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Denver, Colorado, U.S., April 22, 2020. Picture taken April 22, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Mohatt/File Photo
An Amazon worker delivers packages

  • Amazon has been accused by the National Labor Relations Board of illegally firing a working who pushed for better working conditions, BuzzFeed News reported Friday.
  • Amazon fired Courtney Bowden in March after she advocated for sick pay for part-time workers.
  • Multiple legal challenges have been brought against Amazon over its firings of whistleblowers who have spoken out about working conditions at the company during the pandemic.
  • Amazon, meanwhile, has become increasingly aggressive in its attempts to monitor workers as well as silence and discredit those who raise concerns.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The National Labor Relations Board has accused Amazon of illegally firing a worker who advocated for better working conditions during the pandemic, BuzzFeed News reported Friday.

The NLRB filed a complaint against Amazon last month for firing former warehouse worker Courtney Bowden, meaning her case will be heard by a federal judge in March, according to BuzzFeed News.

Amazon fired Bowden in March after she tried to organize her coworkers to push for paid time off for part-time workers, claiming she had gotten into an altercation with a coworker, The Wall Street Journal reported in April.

Bowden disputed Amazon’s claims, telling The Wall Street Journal at the time that the company was “trying to get rid of organizers,” adding: “We are being targeted.”

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Bowden is one of at least six workers that Amazon fired in the early days of the pandemic following frequent protests around the world over what workers said were unsafe working conditions. Those workers included Chris Smalls, who sued Amazon, claiming its COVID-19 response was racially biased and violated civil rights laws, Bashir Mohamed, who pushed for better cleaning practices, and others who criticized Amazon’s working conditions.

The firings drew strong criticism from multiple lawmakers and sparked several legal challenges from regulators in Illinois and New York as well as the NLRB, who have accused the company of violating city, state, and federal human rights and labor laws by retaliating against whistleblowers. Amazon’s response even prompted one of its top executives to resign, citing Bowden’s firing as part of his reasoning. 

Amazon started paying workers an extra $2 per hour in March as hazard pay, but dropped the practice in May, and offers limited sick pay beyond a two-week period for employees who test positive for COVID-19. The company has previously said it has taken a variety of steps to limit the spread of the virus in its facilities, including providing protective gear, implementing temperature checks, conducting some in-house testing, and implementing additional cleaning measures. The company said more than 19,000 workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

Amazon has also come under scrutiny for its increasingly aggressive efforts to monitor workers and discredit their claims about working conditions. Days after firing Smalls, a leaked memo obtained by Vice News revealed that Amazon’s top executives had planned to mount a negative PR campaign against Smalls.

“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,” Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky wrote in notes sent to other top executives, adding that there was “general agreement” on the strategy, which was devised in a meeting attended by CEO Jeff Bezos and operations chief Dave Clark, according to Vice.

Vice has also reported that Amazon has spied on workers via private social media groups and by hiring actual private spies. Business Insider has previously reported how Amazon uses a heat-map to predict union activity among Whole Foods workers and that it’s rolling out its own AI-powered workplace monitoring tools to other companies.

Earlier this week, over four hundred lawmakers from 34 countries signed an open letter to CEO Jeff Bezos saying that Amazon’s “days of impunity are over,” accusing Amazon and Bezos of underpaying and intimidating workers, contributing to climate change, and paying unfairly low taxes.

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