PACKAGED. Amazon is a massive company, shipping products to customers worldwide in their signature cardboard boxes. However, before choosing to buy from Amazon, we should first consider the positives and the negatives, such as the working conditions in a warehouse like this one. (Scottish Government @ Flickr Creative Commons)
PACKAGED. Amazon is a massive company, shipping products to customers worldwide in their signature cardboard boxes. However, before choosing to buy from Amazon, we should first consider the positives and the negatives, such as the working conditions in a warehouse like this one.

Scottish Government @ Flickr Creative Commons

[2 SIDES, 1 ISSUE] Is it ethical to buy from Amazon?

November 9, 2021

The way we critize Amazon needs to change

In recent months and years, Amazon has come under increasing scrutiny from the general public. It’s hard to find someone who is unopinated about the retail giant most recently valued at $1.7 billion. While it’s easy to point out flaws in the company, the issues are often more nuanced than many are willing to admit. Unless you’re really willing to stop buying anything from Amazon, it’s time to think more carefully about how the company is criticized.

Amazon is a large and complicated entity, and with that complexity comes both good and bad aspects. In the pursuit of a better understanding of Amazon’s moral standing, it’s important to take a look at both sides of the spectrum.

Many people may be unaware of some ways which the company has beneficially contributed to society. On the most basic level, Amazon is consistently one of the highest ranked businesses among consumers. Simply put, customers are happy with the high quality services the company provides. Amazon offers affordable options for many, and it’s convenience is unmatched. Amazon also maintains many initiatives focused on doing good. In 2016, the company vowed to hire 25,000 US military veterans by 2021 and recently scored a 100 on The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index. Amazon has also facilitated the donation of an estimated 135 million through its charity program AmazonSmile. Amazon is also truly an asset for smaller businesses. This is admittedly a narrative that Amazon frequently uses in their advertising, but the fact of the matter is that it holds truth. The reach and consumer trust in Amazon is instrumental in many online businesses.

Rest assured, I am not postulating that Amazon is a perfect corporate angel, but rather that there is an inherent complexity in a service as big as Amazon that few are willing to accept. I’ve witnessed many people criticize Amazon heavily on the outside, but I’m skeptical that everyone of them has stopped purchasing items from Amazon. Calls to get rid of the company altogether are unrealistic and often disregard the people whose livelihood depends on the company in one way or another. The troubling facts about Amazon are undeniable (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wealth, recent scrutiny for worker conditions, to mention a few), but oversimplifying the issue into a malicious CEO and company destroying the world is near-sighted.

I’m asking those with their minds made up about Amazon (mainly through posts they see on social media) to do real research to support their position. It’s very possible that these individuals may still come to the conclusion that Amazon is bad for the world and that’s okay. I do not wish to promote an ideology, but rather to elevate the level of discussion around the issue and embrace the inherent nuance that is often disregarded.

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It is unethical to buy from Amazon

Amazon has become one of the world’s largest corporations, shipping products of endless varieties to countries across the globe at the click of a button. According to Fortune’s Global 500 for 2021, which ranks the 500 companies with the highest revenues, Amazon placed third, demonstrating its massive success. However, behind this shiny facade, Amazon hides the horrors of its unethical working conditions. This kind of behavior is wrong and should not be supported by the money of so many unsuspecting customers.

A report released in May 2021 by the Strategic Organizing Center or SOC (a coalition of labor unions including the Service Employees International Union), outlined the workplace injuries in Amazon warehouses. The numbers used were in fact reported by Amazon itself to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The data shows that in 2020, for every 100 workers at these warehouses, 5.9 serious injuries occurred, either partially or completely affecting the employees’ ability to do their job. This rate is nearly 80% higher than the rate for non-Amazon employers in the warehouse industry, exposing a serious safety problem within the corporation.

Furthermore, employees have complained about the grueling and fast-paced work they must complete during shifts. A quote in the SOC report from a Fulfillment Center Worker in Kentucky says, “Do not demand so much production, since we are people, not machines.” Workers at the JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island, New York have even delivered a petition to facility managers to voice their opinions. In addition to grievances about the high injury rates, employees are upset by the short duration of their breaks, the lack of reliable public transportation to and from the warehouse, and the likelihood of being fired. Just like that, a simple mistake or having the courage to voice complaints about the working conditions could lead to being out of a job.

With how highly commercialized the world has become, consumers have taken advantage of how easy it is to get their hands on products ranging from clothing, to home goods, to food, and everything in between. For many, all they see are the benefits, especially how quickly they can get these items delivered to their doorstep. This creates a vicious cycle that does nothing to prioritize the health and safety of employees at major corporations like Amazon. When customers keep buying, workers keep working, and in poor conditions.

Collectively, we should all make an effort to minimize how much we buy from Amazon or even stop shopping there altogether. A good alternative to Amazon is supporting local businesses in the Twin Cities like the ones on this list. In doing so, we will stop supporting their unethical working conditions and hopefully create a better experience for their employees.

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