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Amazon warehouse workers in St. Peters call on company to provide safer working conditions

STL8 workers deliver a safety petition with more than 400 signatures to management on May 23.
Missouri Workers Center
STL8 workers deliver a safety petition with more than 400 signatures to management on May 23.

More than 400 workers at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in St. Peters have sent managers a petition calling for safer working conditions. Many employees say the current conditions, including the fast pace, are causing injuries.

The petition that workers sent last month notes that an organizing committee uncovered hundreds of injuries at the fulfillment center over the past few years. It also points to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Labor that cited Amazon warehouses for “failing to keep workers safe.”

“For a long time, Amazon's not really been the safest place to work, especially as of recently,” said Arianna Kimbrough, a former employee at Amazon’s St. Peters warehouse. “So, we have been demanding lower work rates, so that workers aren't rushing so much and getting hurt in the process.”

Some workers are calling on Amazon to lower the production standards for its associates to levels that lead to fewer injuries and to provide two additional 15-minute bathroom breaks per full shift or one additional break per partial shift. They also want Amazon to implement comfortable working conditions and install better equipment.

Kimbrough, who worked at the warehouse for nearly a year before leaving on May 27, said employees are constantly moving their hands and feet as they pack or move boxes. They also are required to walk or stand on concrete floors during shifts, which can be taxing.

“It causes a lot of musculoskeletal pain. Sometimes it causes broken bones, really bad sprains or bruises,” she said. “And for the most part, I don't know anybody at the workplace who hasn't had pain and strain from repetitive movement.”

Amazon officials say the St. Peters Fulfillment Center, which has over 3,000 workers, has a consistent safety record and has reduced its recordable injury rate by 55% since 2019.

“The vast majority of employees at this facility say in anonymous surveys that they feel safe at work and believe their managers are always looking for ways to enhance safety further,” said Steve Kelly, an Amazon spokesperson. “While there’s always work to do, the views of a few do not reflect the opinions of most employees at this facility.”

Kimbrough, 19, worked as a part-time ship dock associate for nearly a year. She pulled boxes and placed them on pallets every weekend for 10 hours a day. She said she has sustained injuries on the job before.

“There was a time where I did get hit in the eye as well and I had to go to AmCare. … They asked me to scale my pain and had me there for some time for review,” she said.

Kimbrough was able to return to work after the health review. But she said, “There's a lot of people who when they have similar situations, the pain does come back, and they don't really get to just be off after that.”

Amazon officials say the warehouse’s recordable injury rate in 2022 was 3.5 injuries per 200,000 working hours, which is below the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2021 warehouse industry average rate of 6.7 per 200,000 working hours.

In January, OSHA cited Amazon centers in Florida, Illinois and New York for violating its rules by exposing workers to ergonomic hazards. An Amazon spokesperson said officials have cooperated with the government through its investigation and are working to keep people safe and reduce injury rates.

To help prevent injuries in St. Peters, workers there want Amazon to implement an independent third-party safety audit and form an employee-led safety committee to make recommendations to management.

Jennifer Crane has packed boxes at the warehouse for almost two years. She is fighting for slower working rates because she injured her hand in October.

Crane tore a ligament in her left wrist while packing a case of sparkling water. She went to the center’s medical clinic and was treated with ice and painkillers and given the rest of the day off. She was later placed on workers’ compensation and underwent physical therapy until the end of November.

Crane said she could use extra bathroom breaks to reduce the pain in her hand from overuse.

“They need to slow that down, way down to a normal rate to give us extra breaks,” she said. “We are on our feet 10 hours a day, we're not allowed to sit unless you're on break. It's stand only, the whole time you're on the floor.”

Crane said she cannot afford to take days off because of hand pain. She needs the job to support her children since her husband died in 2019.

Workers say if they cannot get their warehouse’s management to honor their request, they plan to take steps to unionize.

“We need to put pressure on [Amazon], to try to change to make it better at that place for us,” Crane said. “If it comes down that we can't get it done without unionizing, then once we have enough numbers in our facility, then that's what we need to do.”

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.