May 9, 2013

Amazon temps sue for backpay, German Amazon strike imminent


Workers for a temp agency that supplies staff to Amazon warehouses are suing for lost wages.

Workers for a temp agency that supplies staff to Amazon warehouses are suing for lost wages, accusing their employer—Integrity Staffing Solutions—of not paying employees “for all the time they actually spent working.”

One worker, Jesse Busk, tells Huffington Post that he had to “pass through the sprawling warehouse security checkpoint” at the end of each shift, a process that took up to 25 minutes, time which Busk wasn’t paid for.

The purpose of the checkpoint was to prevent workers like Busk from pilfering electronics or other pricey goods from the Amazon stock. The process deeply annoyed Busk, but not because of any indignity he may have felt in being checked for contraband. What bothered him was the time it required after an exhausting day—up to 25 minutes, all of it unpaid.

“You’re just standing there, and everyone wants to get home,” said the 36-year-old Busk, who lives in Nevada. “It was not comfortable. There could be hundreds of people waiting at the end of the shift.” […]

From 2009 into 2010, Busk was employed as a product “picker” by Integrity Staffing Solutions, a temp agency that supplies workers to the massive online retailer, particularly during the busy holiday season.

The lawsuit, a class-action case, claims “an utter lack of respect for workers’ time’ by Integrity and ultimately Amazon,” though the lawsuit does not in fact name Amazon as a party in the suit.

The case was originally filled in 2011, but a Nevada court dismissed the claim. It was reinstated by a federal appeals panel last month.

According to the Mark Thierman, one of the lawyers representing the Integrity temps, “From what we’ve been able to find, this is across the country… It’s not just Nevada. It’s Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Kentucky, Delaware. They all have the same setup.”

The focus on the class-action suit comes as Amazon continues to face labor problems abroad.

In Germany, 98 percent of workers polled at Amazon’s Bad Hersfeld warehouse (located in central Germany) voted on Monday to support a strike. They join workers in a Leipzig warehouse, which previously voted in favor of striking.

The workers are asking, according to a Reuters dispatch, for better pay and benefits and for the implementation of a “collective agreement on employment conditions, in keeping with the country’s other mail order and retail firms.”

A strike, according to Reuters, “could come within weeks.”



Kelly Burdick is the executive editor of Melville House.