John Oliver, the host of “Last Week Tonight” on HBO, took a shot at Amazon on his latest episode. His rant wasn’t limited to just Amazon, and he targeted the entire warehouse industry for the crummy working conditions that employees must endure. But he singled out Amazon because they are a leader and trendsetter in the e-commerce space. Its employees old and young reportedly walk miles upon miles per day inside massive warehouses to retrieve and ship items, often to meet the strenuous 24-hour delivery promise.
According to Oliver:
“Amazon is not the worst actor in this industry…They made headlines last year for raising workers’ base pay to $15 an hour. But being ‘not the worst’ is a low, low bar. and they have huge influence here…The conditions in their warehouses are not nearly as fun as their ads like to suggest.”
The accusation was enough to trigger a response by Amazon. It didn’t come from Jeff Bezos, but Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of operations, defended his employer:
“We are proud of the safe, quality work environment in our facilities – so much so that we offer tours to the public, ages six and up. But unlike over 100,000 other people this year, John and his producers did not take us up on our invitation to tour one of our facilities.”
As followers on social media pointed out, it’s highly likely that the Amazon facility that John Oliver would be touring would be a controlled situation in which the temperature isn’t like an oven and things run like clockwork. Based on the responses and posts of factory workers online, that’s hardly the case most of the time.
A “seasonal worker in his seventies” was featured on John Oliver’s show, where he described how the Amazon factory is two or three football fields long. In a single shift, the man explained how he would walk between 15-17 miles.
If you’ve ever seen the inside of a warehouse at a major shipping company, you may agree that the picture that Oliver paints isn’t entirely wrong. All it takes is a look at online forums where e-commerce factory workers vent their frustrations to capture just how unsafe and uncomfortable these working conditions could be.
In one illustration, Oliver describes how an XPO Logistics factory worker reportedly died from a heart attack after becoming “short of breath.” The coworkers of the woman alleged that they were expected to keep working while their fallen colleague was lying on the floor.
Oliver reminds his viewers that the e-commerce giant is an industry leader and sets the tone for the rest of the market. When Amazon says it can deliver in a day, Walmart turns around and promises the same thing in the fiercely competitive e-commerce landscape. Some consumers said they would forego their Amazon Prime one-day shipping for more humane working conditions for employees.