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Scathing Reports Document Negative Impacts Of Amazon Warehouse Model

FreightWaves

Days before the Black Friday shopping crush, an investigative journalism outlet and a California think tank separately released two scathing reports documenting the social, environmental and economic costs of Amazon.com, Inc.'s (NASDAQ: AMZN) breakneck-speed package delivery and fulfillment model.

The investigative piece, a joint project between the Reveal Center for Investigative Reporting and The Atlantic, examined injury records from 23 of the company's 110 fulfillment centers nationwide.

The rate of serious injuries at these centers was more than double the national average for the warehousing industry —  9.6 per 100 full-time workers in 2018, compared with an industry average that year of four, according to the investigative article, which was published Nov. 25.

The second report, released Nov. 26, is a project of the Economic Roundtable, a nonprofit research group that focuses on social and economic issues in Southern California. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor underwrote the study.

Titled "Too Big to Govern," the analysis found that just over half of Amazon warehouse workers in Southern California live in substandard housing. For every $1 in wages, they receive 24 cents in public assistance.

The Economic Roundtable authors also documented the environmental cost to communities hosting Amazon fulfillment centers.

"Every day, ships, trucks, trains and airplanes bring an estimated 21,500 diesel truckloads of merchandise to 21 Amazon warehouses in the four-county region," they wrote. Amazon trucks last year created $642 million in "uncompensated public costs" for noise, road wear, accidents and harmful emissions, the report said.

Adding to the mounting criticism, a group of three dozen grassroots organizations this week announced the formation of a new coalition, Athena.

"We are joining together to stop Amazon's growing, powerful grip over our society and economy," the Athena website states. "We're going to write new rules so that our economy puts people first, our public officials ensure that no corporation is above the law or too big to govern — and that our democracy, finally, represents all of us."

The release of the two reports, as well as the formation of the Athena coalition, comes as Amazon expects to spend .5 billion in the fourth quarter to support its ambitious plan guaranteeing one-day deliveries — down from two days — on products ordered through its Prime service.

The e-tailing giant reported third-quarter revenue of $70 billion, a 24% increase over the same period in 2018, as well as a 46% surge in worldwide shipping costs as it made massive transportation and logistics investments to upgrade delivery times and take more control of the shipping process amid continued demand for its products and services.

Amazon did not immediately respond to FreightWaves' request for comment.

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