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Amazon workers in St. Charles County demand 'better pay, safer conditions'

“Amazon cares very little about said injuries. Production is all they’re concerned with,” Justin Lopez, a process assistant at the fulfillment center said.
Credit: James Drew
Employees rally Sept. 14 at an Amazon fulfillment center in St. Charles County.

ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. — Workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in St. Charles County on Wednesday demanded higher pay and better working conditions, saying the e-commerce giant should share more of its profits with workers.

Employees, however, stopped short of calling for a vote to unionize at the St. Peters fulfillment center, which is referred to as STL8.

“I support people getting treated and paid better, especially when you work for a company that says ‘we’re going to be the best employer on the planet.’ They’re not. They’re not even trying,” said Justin Lopez, a process assistant at the fulfillment center who is a member of the STL8 Organizing Committee. He said his pay has increased from $15 to $19.75 over the past three years.

Members of the group pressed Seattle-based Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) to increase employees’ pay by at least $10 per hour, increase compensation by a minimum of $1 per hour for each additional job an employee is trained for, and create a worker-led committee to help ensure job safety.

An Amazon spokesperson said in a statement: "We're always listening to the more than 3,000 employees who work at this site and we welcome their feedback on ways we can continue making Amazon a great place to work. We're committed to providing a safe, modern, inclusive work environment as well as competitive wages and comprehensive benefits."

After presenting a petition with about 350 signatures that outlines the demands to the senior operations manager, about 40 employees walked out of the front entrance holding up “safer work” and “higher wages” and chanting “if we don’t get it, shut it down.” They attended a press conference organized by the Missouri Workers Center, a St. Louis-based nonprofit group.

It was the latest sign of increasing pressure on Amazon, as it grapples with a tight labor market and union organizers who won a representation vote in April at a Staten Island, New York, fulfillment center and have filed for a vote at one in suburban Albany, New York.

As a process assistant, Lopez said he coaches employees on metrics used to track the pace of their work. To avoid write-ups from supervisors, some workers become injured, he said.

“Amazon cares very little about said injuries. Production is all they’re concerned with,” Lopez said.

Amazon reported net income in 2021 of $34 billion and CEO Andy Jassy received $212 million in compensation.

The Rev. Linden Bowie, president of the Missouri Baptist State Convention, said Amazon is representative of a “moral crisis” as corporations prioritize profits over how workers are treated.

“We’re here to tell the Amazon corporate leadership that we want you to treat people as human beings and not as some tool in order to gain profits for you and your shareholders,” said Bowie, who also is pastor of Zion Travelers Missionary Baptist Church in Riverview.

Before transferring to the St. Peters facility about a year ago, Kayla Breitbarth worked at an Amazon fulfillment center in Washington state for two years. She said moving heavy loads at a fast pace hurt her foot and she was directed to report the injury to AmCare, Amazon’s on-site emergency clinic.

“They sent me to a doctor who didn’t take my insurance. When I told them I couldn’t pay, they said I wouldn’t be billed. They still billed me almost $300 and I was threatened they would sent it to collections if I didn’t pay it.

“The doctor acted like I was faking it and made me feel horrible for trying to get help for a medical thing that happened at work and Amazon never covered the bill,” she added. 

Read more of the story on the St. Louis Business Journal website.

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