According to the ARD, a German television network, Amazon is scrambling to do damage control after one of their security contractors, HESS (the name of Hitler’s deputy), was accused of harassing immigrant workers, and wearing uniforms designed by a Berlin brand linked to neo-Nazis. It’s unclear if Amazon knew about the company’s tendencies, but this is not the only mark on their reputation in Germany. Some of the company’s abuses–paying lower wages than advertised on job applications–have attracted the attention of the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, who is opening an investigation and threatening to revoke Amazon contractor licenses.
The accusations expand beyond HESS and unfair wages. According to The Independent, the intimidation by security personnel reaches the unimaginable at Amazon’s seven logistics centers in Germany, including “threats of random staff searches, constant pressure to perform better and firing of workers who complained… employees’ rooms being searched, and staff being frisked at breakfast and constantly watched.”
One publisher, Christopher Schroer, has gone so far as to write an “adieu letter” to the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, in which he complains about Amazon’s exorbitant cut of each sale–50%–as well as the company’s tricks to avoid taxes, and hiring of outsourced staffers who have little rights and protections. As for Amazon’s treatment of temporary, immigrant workers, Schroer says, “these people, your employees, your ‘human capital,’ you treat just as unfairly as you already have treated us.” In conclusion, Schroer writes, “You are, you never were and you never will be a company that treats people like people, publishers like partners and customers like kings. You are not a company that is committed to the cultural treasure of the book. You are not a company that has social and ethical principles.”
Unfortunately, the problem is not just in Germany. In recent years, stories have spreadabout Amazon warehouses in the U.S. with no air conditioning in brutal heat, as well as the practice of hiring temporary workers to keep wages low and prevent unionizing.
Why does Amazon continue to gain momentum? In Germany, speculators claim there are no other options. In the United States, some feel the same, claiming that other online book sellers aren’t as cheap or organized.
Fuze poses these question to us all: knowing what is behind these cut-rate prices, is it worth the Amazon Prime free shipping, or other perks? When will there be no other choice but Amazon?