Amazon Drivers In Rochester Area Walk Out To Protest Working Conditions
(HENRIETTA, NEW YORK) - On Easter Sunday, a group of Amazon Drivers staged a small walkout protest at the Henrietta distribution center just outside Rochester.
The local walkout took its cue from a Reddit video calling for Amazon Drivers nationwide to walk out on their duties to protest the conditions they face while working for the On-Line Retail Giant.
Colin Shellard, a local Driver, who organized the demonstration in Henrietta, said his participation puts his job at risk: "I know that I'll probably get fired, but that's okay. I want to raise awareness for what Drivers are going through."
Shellard works for RML Transport Corporation, a delivery service partner with Amazon.
According to Shellard, Drivers face pressure to deliver packages at all costs - pressure that is applied by Amazon, he said, and not by RML.
The demand to fulfill deliveries leads to Drivers skipping breaks and urinating into Gatorade bottles, Shellard said.
"Fifteen minutes can make or break your day," Shellard said. "Taking your lunch break and sitting down is now a protest."
On Social Media platforms like Twitter and Reddit, the Gatorade bottle claim is often repeated.
Recently, Amazon fired off a Twitter response to a Wisconsin member of Congress' tweet about the issue, but then late last week put out a statement expressing regret for that response, using a soccer term and referring to it as an "own-goal."
On March 24th, U.S. Represented Mark Pocan (Democrat-Wisconsin) tweeted: "Paying Workers $15/hour doesn't make you a "progressive workplace" when you Union-bust & make Workers urinate in water bottles."
A verified Amazon News account on Twitter replied: "You don't really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us. The truth is that we have over a million incredible Employees around the world who are proud of what they do, and have great wages and health care from day one. We hope you can enact policies that get other employers to offer what we already do."
Then, on Friday, Amazon walked back a portion of that response: "...we know that Drivers can and do have trouble finding restrooms because of traffic or sometimes rural routes, and this has been especially the case during COVID when many public restrooms have been closed. This is a long-standing, industry-wide issue and is not specific to Amazon."
According to Shellard, the stress a Driver faces to maintain their delivery rate is wearing on the Employees: "Everyone is on edge. People are tired. They're not seeing their family or friends. It's like they live and breathe Amazon."
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