Former Amazon warehouse workers face a sad predicament
Some former temporary workers from Amazon’s warehouses in Pennsylvania are having a hard time, the Lehigh Valley’s newspaper the Morning Call reports. Those who have filed for unemployment benefits -- sums of $100 to $200 per week -- often find their claims challenged. If approved, they are often challenged again. These workers, with few resources, face delays in receiving unemployment compensation. Those who aren’t capable of navigating the official steps required to fight the challenges may never receive unemployment.
“Advocates for the working poor say the company’s aggressive stance on unemployment compensation exploits low-wage earners who need the benefit for food, housing and other necessities while they search for other jobs,” the Morning Call reports. “The workers are often outmatched in the unemployment process.”
These workers, whose tasks include gift-wrapping, packing boxes and removing items from shelves, are employed by Integrity Staffing Solutions, a temporary agency that works with Amazon. Amazon tells the paper that 70% of the 1,937 full-time employees at its Breinigsville, Pa., warehouse started out as temporary employees. The problems are with those who failed to make the transition to full-time employment.
One man broke his foot at home and was told by a supervisor not to come in, after which his position was terminated. One woman began in stationary jobs gift wrapping and packing but was injured and in pain when she was shifted to a job that required going up and down three flights of stairs.
Another temporary worker, Rosemarie Fritchman, now 67, suffered heat exhaustion while working at the Amazon warehouse during summer 2011. “It was so hot there,” the Morning Call writes, “that Amazon had ambulances and paramedics stationed in the parking lot on hot days that year to respond to workers suffering heat-stress.” Frichtman followed company procedure and returned with a doctor’s note about her absence when she was ready to come back to work, but her job had been terminated.
In the latter two cases, the former staffers were approved for unemployment benefits; Integrity Staffing Solutions appealed the decisions. In the end, the state’s unemployment appeals referee found that all three workers should receive unemployment benefits.
An attorney tells the paper that it’s good business sense for a company like Integrity Staffing Solutions to “aggressively manage its unemployment compensation process.” That’s because companies pay unemployment insurance; rates go up when claims go up.
Integrity Staffing Solutions had revenue of $265 million in 2011. The staffers who are seeking unemployment benefits earned around $12.75 an hour; current Amazon warehouse jobs offered by Integrity Staffing Services pay up to $13.50 per hour.
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