Tips from reporter who exposed Amazon’s conditions

by May 15, 2012

amazon conditionsSpencer Soper of the Allentown Morning Call exposed the working conditions at an Amazon.com warehouse last year, noting the intense heat and ambulances parked outside to treat employees who were unable to endure the heat. He writes:

“An emergency room doctor in June called federal regulators to report an ‘unsafe environment’ after he treated several Amazon warehouse workers for heat-related problems. The doctor’s report was echoed by warehouse workers who also complained to regulators, including a security guard who reported seeing pregnant employees suffering in the heat.

In a better economy, not as many people would line up for jobs that pay $11 or $12 an hour moving inventory through a hot warehouse. But with job openings scarce, Amazon and Integrity Staffing Solutions, the temporary employment firm that is hiring workers for Amazon, have found eager applicants in the swollen ranks of the unemployed.”

The story earned Spencer a spot among this year’s finalists for the Gerald Loeb awards that honor business journalism.

Today’s Tip: Don’t dismiss what people say about the workplace, Spencer says.

Spencer says he first got a tip about working conditions at Amazon after writing a story about the temporary staffing agency that helps Amazon recruit employees.

Spencer Soper

“The more we looked, the more we found,” Spencer says. “It wasn’t just a routine complaint about work, but a work environment that needed to be exposed.”

Corroboration from federal regulators and the emergency room doctor helped support the claims, he says.

The story notes the paper found 20 employees to talk about the workplace. Spencer says many people weren’t willing to talk because they still worked at the warehouse. But the stiff job market also made people wary of talking about the company – even anonymously – because they didn’t want to jeopardize their chances to find other jobs, he says.

For this story, Spencer says he found employees by calling people and visiting the warehouse. Last year, Mike Hudson offered additional tips on finding employees, including websites such as Ripoff Report.com, GlassDoor.com and Jobitorial.