Commentary

Good grief! How many P.R. people does Amazon have?

It appears that you don’t have to be an Amazon Prime customer to get almost immediate, free deliveries from the Amazon P.R. department. Twice in the past week, Policy Watch has posted blog entries featuring stories that appeared on other sites in which the online retailing giant was portrayed in a less-than-favorable light.

Last week, we linked to reporter Claire Brown’s story in The Intercept in which she reported that Amazon employs a startling number of people whose wages are low enough to keep them eligible for food assistance.

Today, we linked to a new report from the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health in which Amazon was listed as one of the nation’s 12 worst companies for worker safety.

In both instances, I received unsolicited emails from Amazon commenting on the story within hours. Last week, someone from Amazon named Shevaun Brown wrote me a couple of hours after we posted to say the following:

“Amazon is proud to have created over 130,000 new jobs last year alone. These are good jobs with highly competitive pay and full benefits. In the U.S., the average hourly wage for a full-time associate in our fulfillment centers, including cash, stock, and incentive bonuses, is over $15/hour before overtime. That’s in addition to our full benefits package that includes health, vision and dental insurance, retirement, generous parental leave, and skills training for in-demand jobs through our Career Choice program, which has over 16,000 participants.”

And today, I got an email within hours (along with three phone calls from Seattle — I finally answered the third one) from an Amazon staffer named Lindsay Campbell to say this:

“Amazon has created over 130,000 jobs in the last year alone and now employees over 560,000 people around the world. Ensuring the safety of these associates is our number one priority.  Operational meetings, new hire orientation, process training and new process development begin with safety and have safety metrics and audits integrated within each program.  We expect our leadership to continually improve the safety results of their operations by reducing physical risk through the design of processes, equipment and work areas, applying high standards of safety performance each day, improving capabilities through training and coaching using rigorous management reporting systems to track and audit their progress. We have also launched the Safety Leadership Index across our US operations where every associate is surveyed through our Connections Program answering a series of questions each month to measure the perception of safety in their facility. Each of these safety programs and measures apply to everyone working in our facilities — full time, part time, seasonal, and temporary. While any serious incident is one too many, we learn and improve our programs working to prevent future incidents.  We are proud of safety record and thousands of Amazonians work hard every day innovating ways to make it even better. We encourage anyone to come see for themselves by taking a tour at one of our fulfillment centers — learn more at http://amazonfctours.com.”

To which, all a body can say is “wow!” In addition to being a little frightening — I mean, I wonder if these people know what I had for lunch today, too — one has to marvel at how many P.R. staffers the company must have on staff in order to generate comments to every critical blog post out there.  Let’s hope very much that their claims about improving their workplaces are true — though one suspects they might’ve freed up a little extra cash for the efforts a while ago if they’d downsized the P.R. departments just a smidge.

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