St. Peters Amazon employees file OSHA complaint saying work conditions caused injuries
Amazon employees at a St. Peters fulfillment center, along with the Missouri Workers Center, filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday, alleging the retail giant’s work practices have led to job-related injuries and a failure to ensure safety.
The 10-page complaint, signed by 14 employees, details examples of how workers suffered job-related injuries because of dangerous working conditions and received inadequate treatment from the facility’s in-house medical team, AmCare.
“Amazon doesn't care about our complaints,” said Wendy Taylor, a packing worker and a member of the warehouse worker and organizing committee. “They don't care about our injuries. They don't care about us, so we have to come together in numbers.”
In May, 400 workers at the same facility — STL8 — sent managers a petition asking for safer working conditions. Those workers say their request has been ignored.
An Amazon spokesperson, Maureen Lynch Vogel, said in a statement the company would be happy to welcome OSHA into its sites at any time.
“The vast majority of employees at this facility say in anonymous surveys that they feel safe at work and believe their managers are always looking for ways to enhance safety further,” Lynch Vogel said. “We’re happy to work with OSHA to answer questions and provide information they may request.”
Lynch Vogel also said STL8 has a record of safety improvement. The recordable injury rate in St. Peters stood at 3.5 per 200,000 working hours in 2022, compared to an industry average of 6.7, according to Amazon.
Taylor, the packing worker and member of the STL8 organizing committee, described her experience in March after she tripped at her workstation on an empty pallet, which should have been removed, during the Thursday press briefing.
After the fall, she went to AmCare. Taylor said she was dazed and disoriented. She cut her lip and nose in the fall. Her knees hurt so much that she recalls telling the Amazon staff she rated her pain 10/10 in one leg.
“But after giving me ice and heat treatment, they sent me back to work,” Taylor said. “My co-workers couldn't believe it. Every time I asked to see a doctor, AmCare employees downplayed my injuries and mentioned that, if I went to see another doctor, Amazon would not cover the costs.”
Taylor’s own specialist confirmed she tore her meniscus in the fall.
Jennifer Crane, another packing worker at STL8 and member of the organizing committee, said she injured her wrist last October. After seeing AmCare about the injury, suffered while loading a box, she was diagnosed with a small sprain.
Later, an MRI revealed she’d torn a ligament at the base of her thumb. Crane said Amazon’s workers compensation doctor denied her claim and said it wasn’t work related. But Amazon said the doctor was an independent physician who didn't work for the company.
“After all these months, my wrist still hasn't healed,” said Crane, a single mother of seven. “And what's worse is now some of the simplest tasks I have at home, like prepping meals for my kids, have gotten harder because of my injury.”
Amazon said two third-party doctors later cleared Crane to return to work in November.
Crane and Taylor's stories are not unique to Amazon, said Jordan Barab, a Labor Department assistant secretary at OSHA from 2009 to 2017, during the workers’ press conference.
“It's not just the sheer number and seriousness of injuries that we're concerned about,” Barab said of Amazon on a national scale. “It's the systemic issues inherent in Amazon's business plan that concerns us most.”
Barab mentioned that OSHA, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, cited six Amazon warehouses in January for violating its rules by exposing workers to ergonomic hazards.
“Although Amazon has a legal responsibility and in-house expertise to make their operation safer, the giant company has simply failed to use that expertise to quit worker safety first,” Barab said.
A representative from the Department of Labor, which oversees OSHA, said the federal agency would conduct an investigation of the fulfillment center. By law, OSHA will have six months to inspect the facility.
Barab said the best way for workers to change the workplace is unionization. A Staten Island warehouse became the first Amazon facility to unionize in March 2022.
Asked about the possibility of forming a union at STL8, Taylor said she didn’t know about a timetable.
“When the time comes, then we will decide what would be the next step to us forming this unit," she said. "But now, we're just in the preparation stages."