Amazon kicks off on two-day sales jumps known as Prime Day on Monday. Amazon Prime members can expect deep discounts. Amazon leaders can expect protests across the country over working conditions in their warehouses – including one in Portland.
Some Northwest Portland delivery station employees have raised concerns about physically taxing work on a non-air-conditioned facility. Workers also say that they are consistently exposed to high alarms intended to warn them when vans enter the warehouse to collect parcels.
"They were literally ear-piercing," said former employee Joyce Nance. "I felt my hearing was damaged while I was there."
"We exhale exhaust and we must hear these loud alarms," said a current employee who requested that the name not be used. "I don't like breathing exhaust and I don't like the headache we get from the noise."
Amazon spokesman Kelly Cheeseman said in a statement that the temperature conditions are not unusual.
"Our delivery stations are typical of the logistics industry, where due to the loading of vehicles, employees are often inside and outside as part of their shift," she wrote. "We closely monitor the temperatures in the stations to ensure a safe working environment, and we also have industrial fans, cooling engines, an abundance of water and other measures to ensure their safety on the ground."
The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration has inspected the facility at 3610 NW Saint Helens Road several times in response to complaints. It quoted Amazon in 2018 to break the health and safety rules by not having an effective safety committee in the warehouse. An Oregon OSHA spokesman, Aaron Corvin, said a security committee might not sound significant on paper. But in a workplace, he said, it is a front line defense that gives workers a voice in bringing security issues directly to supervisors.
Nationwide, criticism of working conditions in the Amazon stores has increased, with employees highlighting what someone sees as grueling pace to get online customers their packages as quickly as possible.
At least one community group is planning to gather outside the Amazon stores in Hillsboro and Portland on Tuesday and Wednesday. Workers at an Amazon center in Minnesota are planning to strike Monday. New York warehouse workers have also talked about the conditions there. Even the comedian John Oliver made his own satirical shakedown.
Amazon was not entertained.
OPB spoke to two current and two former employees about their heat and noise experience at the Amazon delivery station on NW Saint Helens Road. The two current employees answered questions, provided the names were withheld, for fear of jeopardizing their jobs.
Everyone said there was no air conditioning on the main storage floor now or when they were hired.
There was no air conditioning. They had fans blowing. So in the winter it will be cold and in the summer it will be hot, "said Todd Hinchliffe, who said he left the warehouse at the end of 2018.
A current employee said a separate break room is air conditioned. Government records.
Portland has had a mild summer so far this year, but generally the temperatures are rising, and in 2018, Portland broke its record of days over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the previous record being set in 2015.
Warehouse at NW Saint Helens Road is the last stop for Amazon packages before delivery. Large trucks fall off large amounts of boxes that workers solve, scan and sort in bags, which warehouses then load on vans or private cars for delivery.
It's physically demanding. An employee at an Amazon warehouse in Troutdale compared it to being paid for training. Former Portland employee Todd Hinchliffe had another word for it:
"Exhaustive," he said. rogression of packets from one point to the next point. We were basically machines that move packages. "
" They were constantly on our cases to go faster, in everything we did, "said Joyce Nance, whose job in the Portland store ended in March 2018 before the summer temperature hit." So I would sort, either in the hallways or on the conveyor, and I would have sweat just dripping down from me because I worked so hard and there was no air conditioning. "
Nance said she was injured at work in January 2019 and reaggravated her injury when she tried to After she missed several shifts, Amazon broke her in March, according to an email Nance, saying she had tried to convey her medical needs to a tutor and later told HR that she had to quit.
Oregon Occ upational Safety and Health Administration has carried out three complaint-based inspections of the Amazon store since 2017. The complaints involved workers' concerns about dust, vehicle emissions and heat. Only one resulted in a referral, classified as "other than serious", for the lack of an effective safety committee. Since 2014, the agency has conducted four other complaint-based inspections at Amazon facilities in Hillsboro, Portland and Troutdale. No referrals were issued.
An inspector who responded to a heat-related complaint in the summer of 2018 found the department store on St. Helens Road to be "very hot and muggy". However, the inspection noted the presence of industrial misting fans, as well as the company's plan to provide additional breaks in hot weather.
An Amazon spokesman says it is typical of delivery stations, where dock doors are open, not for climate control. They said it would be like to have AC in your house with all the windows and doors open.
Oregon OSHA inspection reports also note something that the average Amazon customer may not be aware of: the sheer number of deliveries that cycle through some Amazon stores.
Current and former employees of the NW Portland delivery station describe a long building with roadways running down each side. Delivery vans and private "Flex" cars that deal with Amazon, run through the warehouse itself, where workers load them with bags of parcels for delivery. This is where the alarm comes in.
For safety, employees are not allowed to cross the lanes when vans are present. So when vans arrive, the noise starts.
"If you're in the wrong place, if you're right near where the sound comes from, it's like a police car or an ambulance," a current employee said.
"I want to say it's like a foghorn goes out," said Hinchliffe. "You just know randomly: beep, beep, beep." He said the warning sounds made it difficult to communicate.
Hinchliffe added that the noise did not disturb him as much as it could other people, but that "it was loud and far."
None of the current Amazon employees remembered being offered ear protection, although one said that Some workers wore ear plugs.
Amazon said ear plugs are readily available in the warehouse, but the suggestion that workers might prefer an alternative to the alarm is forwarded to the site.