Hernandez was made to lift merchandise weighing up to 50 pounds off conveyor belts during her 10-hour shifts.
Jeff Bezos made a trip to space this week and thanked Amazon employees and customers for making the trip possible. "I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this," said Bezos during a post-flight press conference. The comments from Bezos were a little too on the nose, especially considering Amazon is notorious for offering poor working conditions and paying poor wages. "Seriously, for every Amazon customer out there, and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart very much. It's very appreciated." This message from Bezos comes at a time when the story of Patty Hernandez, a 23-year-old Amazon warehouse worker who suffered a miscarriage after being denied lighter duty, was reported on Vice News.
Patty Hernandez was seven months pregnant at the time and in the weeks prior, she had pleaded with her manager and the warehouse's human resources for lighter duty. Hernandez was an Amazon warehouse worker in Tracy, California. The management and human resources ignored her pleas, which eventually led to Hernandez suffering a miscarriage last October.
Yes, Amazon workers did pay for this - with lower wages, union busting, a frenzied and inhumane workplace, and delivery drivers not having health insurance during a pandemic.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 20, 2021
And Amazon customers are paying for it with Amazon abusing their market power to hurt small business. https://t.co/7qMgpe8u0M
Hernandez had even submitted a doctor's note requesting pregnancy accommodations to human resources but to no avail. The doctor's note advised against lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying more than 20 pounds, and no walking or standing for more than 50 percent of her shift. Hernandez said the request was denied verbally by a human resources representative. "[HR] just told me there was no specific area for light work that wouldn't require over 15 pounds of lifting, or for me to be off my feet," she recalled. Hernandez's job as a packer included lifting yellow bins filled with merchandise that weighed up to 50 pounds off conveyor belts. Not to mention she had 10-hour shifts.
Not only was her request for lighter duty rejected, but she was also repeatedly asked by her manager why she was taking longer bathroom breaks, sitting, and moving slower. The Center for Disease Control says that repeated heavy lifting, standing on your feet for long hours, and repeated bending at the waist can increase the chance of miscarriage for pregnant workers. "My manager wasn’t accommodating," Hernandez said. "He was on me, asking, 'Why is your rate so low, why are you spending so much time in the bathroom, why is your [time off task] more than ten minutes?' We were only allowed 10 minutes of time off task each day, but the warehouse is so big. It takes six minutes just to get to the bathroom and back."
Jeff Bezos made $1.13 billion today as he went to space.— Dan Price (@DanPriceSeattle) July 21, 2021
That's the same amount 36,000 full-time warehouse workers will make combined, all year.
And Bezos paid the lowest tax rate of anyone of those 36,001 people.
Last October, Hernandez, who's a packer at one of Amazon's six fulfillment centers in Tracy, had felt a sudden urge to go to the bathroom. She rushed across the warehouse to the bathroom and found blood in her pants. She informed her manager she was having a medical emergency, and possibly miscarrying, before heading home. When she requested medical leave, Amazon denied her the request, citing her work hours. "You are not eligible for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act because you have not worked 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months. You have worked approximately 841.57 hours," read a letter dated October 26, 2020. Amazon workers describing their work conditions can often feel dystopian.
And yes, I do believe your workers.— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) March 25, 2021
Hernandez stayed at home as she continued to bleed. She eventually resigned from Amazon, aware that she had run out of personal time off. "It all took a very emotional toll on me. I never imagined this would happen to me. I would cry every day," said Hernandez. Amazon has been subject to at least seven pregnancy discrimination lawsuits between 2011 and 2019.
As we reported earlier, a TikTok video that showed Amazon workers being warned for packing up a station one minute early seems to be shocking people just the same. The video shows the person mechanically packing and taping up boxes as a supervisor admonishes everyone through the intercom system. “It is 9:59. Not 10 o’clock guys,” the person on the intercom can be heard saying. “If you are on your way to break you are getting TOT as we speak,” they add. TOT is the acronym for “time off task," which, according to Daily Dot, means that Amazon will consider that 'one minute' as a break and choose not to compensate you for it.
Patty Hernandez, an Amazon warehouse worker, miscarried after pleading with her manager and human resources for lighter duty. https://t.co/r452DdB9hi— VICE News (@VICENews) July 20, 2021
Working conditions at Amazon have always been a source of controversy. Earlier this year, the company apologized for claiming none of its workers urinate in bottles. A former Amazon warehouse assistant manager said that workers "are tracked down to the second" and added that workers found it hard to use the bathroom as they have to often walk 5-10 minutes to reach the bathroom during their 15-minute break, reported CBS News.
Apart from Amazon's exploitative conditions that have been widely reported, this space trip has come during one of the worst financial crises in history, and Bezos's message couldn't have come at a worse time. Essentially, what Amazon workers need is not for Bezos to thank them, but for him to pay them what they deserve and a workspace that treats them with dignity.