10 Ways Amazon Violates Human Rights

Submitted by ctate on December 10, 2019
Christian Weidiger

All year we have been sharing various ways that Amazon is bad for workers, our planet, and consumer, and on International Human Rights day, we wanted to use this occasion to highlight some of the worst human rights abuses that Amazon has either directly or indirectly contributed to.

  1. Profits off of child labor. Hundreds of children have been reported making Amazon’s Alexa, in an effort to meet high production demands. Some of the children were required to work overnight and overtime.
  2. Amazon sells clothing from a factory blacklisted for its poor safety conditions. The Wall Street Journal recently found that sellers on Amazon have been listing clothing from a factory so dangerous that most other major retailers will not buy from it. This factory has no fire alarms and doors that lock from the outside to keep workers trapped inside.
  3. Facilitates the human rights crisis on the US-Mexico border. The Guardian reported that Amazon Web Services hosts the Department of Homeland Security's databases which allows "the department and its agencies to track and apprehend immigrants.” Amazon also works with Palantir, which has over $150 million in contracts with ICE.
  4. Fights unions, resisting workers' right to freedom of association.  Amazon is known for pushing back against unionization. Amazon reportedly has Whole Foods managers watch anti-union training videos and has fired numerous workers who were organizing their coworkers during the time of firing. 
  5. Amazon’s Ring allows police to access your video footage. Forbes reports that you can opt out of allowing police access to your data, but “they can request the footage directly from Amazon if it has been uploaded to the cloud and the request is sent within 60 days of recording - even if you deny police access to that footage.” Though a similar video doorbell service, Nest, has stated that it would not share footage directly with police, experts do have privacy concerns about both services.
  6. Amazon is listening to your private conversations. Amazon hires thousands of people to listen to your conversations. Bloomberg reported individuals that are hired to review recordings from Alexa noted that sometimes they review “everything the speaker (Alexa) picks up, including background conversations—even when children are speaking. Sometimes listeners hear users discussing private details such as names or bank details…”
  7. Amazon risks the health of workers in US. Recently released injury records found that injury rates within Amazon warehouses are more than DOUBLE the industry average; this is attributed in part to high production quotas.
  8. Amazon risks the health of workers in their supply chain. While Amazon does have a Restricted Substances List (RSL) to protect consumers for some products, it does not apply to electronics or apparel. Amazon does not share which harmful chemicals are and are not allowed in their electronics or apparel supply chain; this means workers and consumers could be exposed to harmful chemicals with potentially lasting negative health consequences. Amazon does not have an MRSL for any products and is therefore failing to protect workers. An RSL is a list of chemicals that are restricted or banned from the final consumer product, and an MRSL is a list of chemicals that are restricted or banned from the manufacturing process.
  9. Amazon sells unsafe products to children. The Wall Street Journal found: “More than 4,000 items for sale on Amazon have been declared unsafe by federal agencies, including 2,000 listings for children’s toys and medications.”
  10. Labor abuses on farms supplying to Whole Foods. A recent report from Oxfam found workers with 14-hour days with limited rest breaks and limited access to restrooms. The report also found that workers “reported developing allergies and serious skin diseases as a result of working with pesticides and other chemicals without adequate protection” on farms supplying to Whole Foods.

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