Examining Amazon’s treatment of its workers

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(CBS News)-Amazon is the second largest private employer in the country, headed by the richest man on Earth. As the coronavirus pandemic has upended American life as we know it, many of us at home have relied on Amazon as a lifeline. Its workers have been called heroes.   

But the company has come under fire for the way it treats those workers on the frontlines of delivery. In his latest earnings’ report, a week and a half ago, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos committed an additional $4 billion, at least, for COVID expenses, including more protections for his employees. He said it would require not just money, but invention and humility. Figuring out how to make this happen falls in great part on the shoulders of Amazon’s head of operations, Dave Clark.

Lesley Stahl: Amazon is seen as an essential service through this pandemic. But you have been very slow to install your workers’ protections. And it’s hurt your reputation. You’ve been seen as a company that puts profits ahead of people.

Dave Clark: I could not disagree more strongly with the premise that we’re late to this party. I think– quite to the contrary. I think we’ve been early on the curve to this than most employers, particularly major employers in the U.S.

As head of operations at Amazon, Dave Clark is in charge of over a million people, 1000 buildings, and shipping your packages. All while keeping Amazon’s workforce safe, whether its employees filling orders at the warehouse, or drivers showing up at your front door.

But since March, some of those workers have started staging protests, walkouts, and sick-outs in New York, Minnesota,Detroit and Chicago.

The protestors want the company to only ship essential items to limit their potential exposure, they want hazard pay and better sick leave. So now Dave Clark is adding damage control to his portfolio. 

We talked with him remotely as he took us on a tour of a warehouse near Seattle, showing us where some of the $800 million the company says it has spent on worker protections thus far has gone. For example, they have installed thermal cameras in many of their locations, to take employees’ temperatures.

Lesley Stahl: They can take someone’s temperature that fast? 

Dave Clark: It can 

They then take a mask. 

Next, a visit to an onsite testing lab. Amazon is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a way for employees to self-administer a coronavirus test, using saliva or a nasal swab. 

But this is still a work in progress. Right now the swab is sent offsite for analysis, results can take as long as five days. 

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