In previous years the convenience of holiday shopping brought me to giant on-line retailers like Amazon, however reports of worker mistreatment and the negative impact on-line shopping has on local economies and the environment made me change my routine this year. As a nurse, I know the impact of workplace injury because our profession routinely has among the highest workplace injury rates in the nation. I also recognize that the strength of local businesses, retailers, and farms contributes to the health of my community. Amazon’s business model seeks to “disrupt” old economies, in turn this harms its workers, cripples local economies, contributes to consumer waste, and supports some unsavory entities, all without paying a single penny in federal taxes.
PBS, last week, reported that Amazon does not report their workplace injury rates, which again reminded me of the healthcare profession. Many nurses do not report their injuries due to fear of retaliation and a lack of reporting policy. Amazon workers are under increasing pressure, particularly during the holidays, to work faster as the company expands their Prime delivery service across the country. Again, this reminds me of nurses being asked to do more with less by large hospital systems, resulting in burnout, injury, and compromised patient care. While, Amazon does not publish their workplace injury records, the federal government requires they be made available to workers. PBS’ investigative journalism team worked with employees inside Amazon’s warehouses to obtain those injury logs which revealed much higher rates of injury than the industry average.
I loved Amazon Prime, but I’ve started to recognize that there’s harm associated with this business model. Also, for every item I purchased online, there was a local store losing business and a community bond broken. On Small Business Saturday this year, I bought all my bibliophile friends and family books from our local shop, “Hello, Hello Books”. I also bought the zine, “How to resist Amazon and why” which I used as a photo for this posting. It is written by Danny Caine, the owner of an independent bookstore in Kansas, who highlighted the abuse of warehouse workers as well as Amazon’s relationship with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Amazon’s role in slowly killing off small business in America, as reasons to delete your Amazon Prime account.
So, in the spirit of Radical Nurses, solidarity with workers at Amazon, and climate change concerns, I’m deleting my Amazon Prime account, at least for the moment. Perhaps their policies will change with enough activism around their practices. In the meantime, I’m going to walk into town and converse with my local shop owners and hopefully consume less overall. The harm Amazon does is no longer worth the convenience.
Vanessa Shields-Haas is a radical nurse, nurse practitioner student, and activist for harm reduction, comprehensive sexual education, LGBTQ rights, and reproductive freedom.