Business reporter Spencer Soper of The Morning Call has won the October Sidney Award from the Sidney Hillman foundation for his expose of Dickensian conditions in Amazon.com's warehouse in Pennsylvania.
Temperatures inside the "fulfillment center" soared to over 100 degrees over the summer and management refused to throw open the doors for ventilation. Current and former warehouse employees told Soper that they felt pressured to work themselves to the point of collapse because they feared they would be penalized for slowing down or taking time off. A security guard complained that he saw pregnant workers struggling in the heat.
During a heat wave, Amazon hired a private ambulance company to wait near the warehouse to deal with all the workers succumbing to heat-related illnesses, and a local ER doc complained to authorities about the influx of workers from the facility.
The Lehigh Valley warehouse is strategically positioned to be within a day's drive of most cities in the Eastern U.S. and Canada. So, if you live in the East and you've ordered something from Amazon lately, there's a good chance your purchase passed through this warehouse.
Amazon has issued a flurry of public statements and messages to customers since the story ran on Sept 18, but when Soper checked back with current employees for his Sep 23 follow-up story, they told him nothing had changed since his original story ran.
[Photo credit: Noelas, Creative Commons.]