In September, a 48-year-old Amazon worker named Billy Foister suffered a heart attack in a warehouse outside Columbus, Ohio.
A few days before, Foister had been reprimanded by a manager two minutes after placing an item into the wrong box. But according to a report from The Guardian, when Foister fell to the ground during the heart attack, it took 20 minutes for anyone in the facility to notice or call an ambulance.
Foister died, and Amazon is now claiming he didn’t die at work, and that it was a “personal medical issue” in an email to The Guardian. Shortly after he was taken to the hospital, “everyone was forced to go back to work. No time to decompress,” an anonymous Amazon worker from the same shift told the newspaper. “Basically watch a man pass away and then get told to go back to work, everyone, and act like it’s fine.”
Since November 2018, six Amazon workers have died, many more have suffered serious injuries, and there’s been an increase in reported mental health issues. According to The Guardian, Foister’s death is the latest in a grim pattern of workplace safety issues at Amazon that have landed the company on a list of the country’s most dangerous employers.
In April, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health included Amazon on its most recent “Dirty Dozen” list, citing its high incidence of worker suicide attempts, overworked employees peeing in bottles to avoid punishment, and poor treatment of contract and temporary workers, which Amazon relies heavily on for all operations. The company made the 2018 list as well, and the Council argues nothing has improved since then.
“The e-commerce giant posted $11.2 billion in profits in 2018 while paying no federal income tax,” the report reads. “Despite these vast resources, there is little evidence the company has made a significant effort to address worker complaints about stress, overwork and other conditions which can lead to illness, injuries and even fatalities.”
It’s no secret that Amazon’s factory workers are often unhappy (despite those bizarre “Amazon Ambassadors” that popped up to defend the company on Twitter). Between 2013 and 2018, a Daily Beast investigation found that 911 was called to Amazon warehouses 189 times after reports of suicidal attempts and ideation.
Amazon’s high productivity quotas forces workers to pee in bottles to avoid bathroom breaks and risk injury working with the automated machines and robots — one of which sent 24 workers to the hospital after spraying them with concentrated bear repellent — which are stripping away human jobs and leaving those who are left in danger.
“There was no reason for my brother to have died,” Billy’s brother Edward Foister told The Guardian. “It seems Amazon values money way more than life. If they did their job right, I wouldn’t have had to bury my little brother.”
READ MORE: The outcry over deaths on Amazon’s warehouse floor [The Guardian]
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