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A Hotline Garment Workers Can Call When They Face Harassment on the Job

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When women who sew clothes for famous brands are harassed, there is a new place for them to turn.

MASERU, LESOTHO?‚ÄĒ?When Nthabiseng Moshoeshoe‚Äôs supervisor told her he loved her, they were alone in a room where they both worked at a blue jeans factory in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, she says.

It was early 2021. She was emptying the garbage. He said she was beautiful, that he wanted to be with her, says Moshoeshoe, who is going by a pseudonym to protect her safety and job security. ?‚ÄúLet‚Äôs keep this professional,‚ÄĚ she remembers telling him back. ?‚ÄúI pushed him away gently.‚ÄĚ 

But he didn‚Äôt receive the news kindly, she says. From then on, she reports that he made repeated complaints about her performance. She grew worried she would lose her job, and with it the paycheck of $150 a month she relied on as her family‚Äôs breadwinner. 

For the women who sew the Western world‚Äôs clothes in Lesotho?‚ÄĒ?the tiny country buried inside South Africa?‚ÄĒ?men like Moshoeshoe‚Äôs supervisor have long been largely untouchable. In the factory where she worked sewing jeans for brands like Levi‚Äôs, Wrangler and The Children‚Äôs Place, it was an open secret that male supervisors traded sex for promotions and permanent jobs. And that they made work life painful for those who refused to give it to them. 

But not long after Moshoeshoe‚Äôs confrontation with her boss last year, she says she saw a poster at the factory advertising an information line to report sexual harassment. 

Though she didn‚Äôt know it, when she dialed that number, she was part of a grand experiment?‚ÄĒ?one that advocates say has the potential to help make factories safer for women around the world. It‚Äôs modeled after labor hotlines in Bangladesh‚Äôs garment factories and Florida‚Äôs tomato fields.

The line in Lesotho is trying that approach for sexual harassment complaints, giving workers a way to report problems to someone outside the factory. That‚Äôs particularly important in an industry that is both dominated globally by women, and where sexual harassment is a documented, endemic crisis.

In an industry that has long been largely allowed to police itself, these hotlines are part of a greater movement toward accountability for brands and factories. But even their supporters are quick to point out that they are not a cure-all. Many of the conditions that make gender-based violence hard to stamp out in the world at large?‚ÄĒ?like stigma and victim-blaming?‚ÄĒ?exist in factories too. And in an industry beholden to the frenzied pace and dizzyingly low prices of fast fashion, working conditions remain difficult to regulate. 

Still, experts say, putting outside eyes on factories is a good place to start. ?‚ÄúLeft to their own devices, companies have largely failed to improve working conditions in their supply chains,‚ÄĚ says Jason Judd, executive director of the New Conversations Project at Cornell‚Äôs Industrial and Labor Relations school. Since the 1990s, he notes, the dominant model in the industry has been a system of social audits, where brands pay independent assessors to inspect factories for poor working conditions. But the quality of those audits is extremely inconsistent, and consequences for poorly-scoring factories are uneven at best.

But Judd says that in recent years, brands have begun to feel increased outside pressure?‚ÄĒ?from consumers and governments in the countries where they sell their clothes?‚ÄĒ?to be more rigorous in policing their suppliers. This comes at a time when the pandemic has exposed massive vulnerabilities on the supply side of clothing manufacturing, with brands canceling billions of dollars of orders, leaving factories and workers in the lurch. That has created, in many parts of the world, tenuous alliances between unions and factories, both desperate to keep business from shutting down. 

Lesotho‚Äôs sexual harassment line is one such example of this. On a recent morning, 20 garment workers sat in a pre-fab conference room beside the blue factory shell where they worked in a scrubby industrial district of Maseru, listening to union organizer Matsi Moalosi explain how the sexual harassment call line work. 

‚ÄúAfter you report, you can get counseling, and the situation will be investigated,‚ÄĚ she explained, raising her voice over the chatter of hundreds of workers on their lunch hour outside. 

The information line had its genesis in 2019, when a report by the labor NGO Worker Rights Consortium uncovered widespread sexual harassment and abuse at the factory group where Moalosi was doing the training?‚ÄĒ?a Taiwanese company called Nien Hsing operating in Lesotho.

The factory owners initially denied the report. But its meticulous documentation, which included dozens of women independently reporting similar offenses, and a raft of bad press quickly forced the factories and the companies they manufactured for to the negotiating table. 

The brands and factories struck a deal with local labor unions and women‚Äôs rights groups. If the factories wanted to keep getting orders from the likes of Levi‚Äôs, Wrangler, and other major brands, they would agree to do two things. First, they would consent to a third-party complaints line, staffed by the Lesotho Federation of Women Lawyers, a local NGO. A second NGO, the Workers Rights Watch, would then investigate the complaints and ?‚Äúdirect and enforce remedies in accordance with the Lesotho law,‚ÄĚ according to a press release from the Worker Rights Consortium at the time. The three major brands involved agreed that if Nien Hsing was found breaching the agreement, they would reduce or cut off orders until it returned to compliance. 

Second, the factories would let the three major local trade unions, along with women‚Äôs rights NGOs, run trainings for every worker, teaching them how to access the hotline when they needed it.

Lesotho‚Äôs garment sector is heavily unionized, and ?‚Äúit was important to us that we run the trainings because we understand the issues workers are facing, and they trust us,‚ÄĚ says Solong Senohe, general secretary of United Textile Employees (UNITE). ?‚ÄúIf someone who didn‚Äôt know them came and tried to teach them [about reporting sexual harassment], they might not trust that they should do it.‚ÄĚ 

‚ÄúIt was important that it was a shift to an independent reporting mechanism outside of the law, because in Lesotho, the law is not trusted,‚ÄĚ says Mampiletso Kobo, an investigator at Workers Rights Watch. As in many parts of the world, rates of sexual violence are high in the country, and women frequently say they face ?‚Äúharsh and accusatory questioning‚ÄĚ from police when they report it. 

There hasn‚Äôt yet been any outside study of how well the hotline is working, and the pandemic has slowed down its rollout, but in Lesotho, workers and their advocates say they‚Äôre cautiously optimistic?‚ÄĒ?with some caveats. 

A hotline is a blunt instrument, and sexual harassment is a nuanced problem, they note. After Moshoeshoe reported her harassment, for instance, she says her former supervisor was given a warning and moved to a different department. But although the hotline is theoretically anonymous, everyone around her seemed to know she had reported him, and people began to take sides. ?‚ÄúI don‚Äôt feel very good being at work now,‚ÄĚ she says. At the same time, she says, ?‚Äúother women who have problems with their bosses, they come to me now to ask for help. I help make them brave.‚ÄĚ

For now, the program is limited to Nien Hsing‚Äôs factories, which together employ about 10,000 workers. That means the women working in most of Lesotho‚Äôs garment factories remain unprotected, and so far there‚Äôs been no move to scale the hotline up, or try a similar model in other countries. Indeed, advocates say that enforcing meaningful, widespread protections for garment workers anywhere in the world remains a constant challenge in the face of pressure from fast fashion brands to keep prices low and produce at extraordinarily brisk rates. 

‚ÄúThe companies are always threatening us that if we ask for too much, they will go to another country that‚Äôs cheaper,‚ÄĚ says Rorisang Kamoli, a shop steward for UNITE at Nien Hsing. 

Meanwhile, the Lesotho Federation of Women Lawyers, which runs the hotline, says many who call it actually have complaints about workplace conditions that are unrelated to sexual violence, showing just how great the need is for outside reporting mechanisms for all kinds of workplace issues. 

Despite the problems it has brought her, Moshoeshoe says she is glad she reported what happened to her. ?‚ÄúBefore, men were never punished for this,‚ÄĚ she says. ?‚ÄúNow when we report, they hear us.‚ÄĚ 

Majirata Latela contributed reporting. This story was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

This blog was originally printed at In These Times on April 18, 2022.

About the Author: Ryan Lenora Brown is a freelance journalist based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She writes frequently about fashion, sustainability, and the women who make our clothes.

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Mental Health at Work and Appropriate Adjustments Managers Should Make

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Mental health in the workplace has, in recent years, become a priority for employers. Many organizations are fighting the stigmas of mental health through training programs and reasonable adjustments in the workplace, ensuring those struggling with their mental health receive the required support. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 adults in the United States struggle with their mental health. Symptoms of mental health and the numerous struggles people face as a result don‚Äôt just affect the lives of individuals; they can also impact the businesses they work for. 

Your Responsibility as an Employer 

As an employer, you cannot ignore the seriousness of mental health and the impact this can have in the workplace. It is a fact that there are people in your workforce struggling with mental health conditions. In fact, it is estimated that around half of the US workforce suffer from mental health issues. 

Just as you would make adjustments for an employee with a physical illness or disability, employers should make reasonable adjustments within the workplace for those with mental health struggles. Below are some of the adjustments you can make. 

Flexible Working Hours 

For someone struggling with mental health, sometimes the smallest changes can make all the difference for them in managing their symptoms. One of the best reasonable adjustments you can make as an employer is to provide opportunities for flexible working. Whether you allow for later start times, remote working, or part-time options, flexible work opportunities can relieve some of the pressure on struggling employees. 

So, whether they need to attend counseling sessions, take time off for medical appointments, book a holiday, or just need to feel more in control of their schedule, allowing for flexible working hours is a reasonable option for employers keen to support their workers. 

Create Support Systems 

Mental health can be extremely isolating. Most sufferers feel embarrassed to speak up about their struggles out of fear that others might judge them. As Adam Nesenoff, an expert working in mental health recovery at Tikvah Lake Recovery states, ‚Äúone of the worst effects of suffering from any mental health problem is that it often leaves people feeling alone. This is frequently made worse because there is a tendency to start isolating.‚ÄĚ Isolation often causes symptoms to worsen. 

Support systems (otherwise known as buddy systems) help employees create connections with their colleagues, find people they can talk to, and feel more comfortable in the workplace. These support systems can be created formally or informally but they are an excellent way to support someone dealing with mental health issues. 

Introduce a Phased Return to Work 

Sometimes, employees need to request an extended period of time off work so they can receive professional support. As an employer, you should support this as much as possible. Seeking support is a huge step out of a comfort zone for many people and it is something that should be commended. 

However, after an extended period of time away from work, many returning employees can feel anxious (whether they struggle with mental health problems or not). So, it can be helpful to introduce a phased return to work. This will help employees to return to their previous duties at a pace that works for them. 

You might consider asking them to come in for a few hours or days each week at first and then building up from there. If you are unsure what is best, just speak to the individual and ask them what they would like to do. 

Address Discrimination and Fight Stigmas 

Unfortunately, there are numerous stigmas surrounding mental health. Sufferers are often faced with questions like, ‚Äúisn‚Äôt it all in your head?‚ÄĚ or ‚Äúthings can‚Äôt be that bad?‚ÄĚ These kinds of responses are unhelpful and, ultimately, damaging to individuals, regularly causing mental health symptoms to worsen.  

One of the critical challenges of tackling mental health in the workplace involves confronting the stigmas and the best way to do this is through addressing the discriminations and educating your workforce. 

Despite the fact you may feel powerless to support every employee in the way they need, one of the best steps you can take is fighting stigmas. Provide mental health training for your employees, address stigmas head-on and let perpetrators know that such behavior will not be tolerated. Creating an understanding and inclusive work culture can transform the health and happiness of your employees. 

As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure all your employees are cared for and supported in the workplace.

This blog is printed with permission.

About the author: Gemma Hart is an independent HR professional working remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. Gemma has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus towards growing her brand and building relationships with leading experts.

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Can a Driver Uprising Make Food Apps Deliver?

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Jon√°n Mancilla is standing on a Manhattan street corner under the awning of a shuttered salon, handing out stickers to his fellow food delivery drivers.

The sticker shows a masked bicyclist in silhouette‚ÄĒfist in the air, food cooler strapped to his back. It bears a Spanglish phrase the largely indigenous workers from Mexico and Guatemala have adopted to describe themselves: ‚ÄúLos Deliveristas Unidos,‚ÄĚ or Delivery Workers United.

These immigrant gig workers‚ÄĒwho toil for apps like Uber Eats, DoorDash, GrubHub, and Relay‚ÄĒdrew headlines in April when 2,000 drivers snarled traffic, whooshing on their e-bikes and scooters towards City Hall in the pouring rain.

They are demanding better wages and improved working conditions, including access to bathrooms and protection from theft and assault. They have a powerful ally in the building service union 32BJ SEIU, bolstering their existing partnership with a Brooklyn-based worker center called Worker‚Äôs Justice Project (WJP).

Estimates put the number of app-based food delivery drivers between 50,000 and 80,000 in New York City alone. Lionized as essential, immigrant workers have also been treated as disposable.

A year ago, when lockdowns allowed some workers the flexibility to work from home, others‚ÄĒespecially low-wage immigrants in housekeeping, food service, and construction‚ÄĒwere laid off and cast out into the streets. They needed a job, fast, with no-frills onboarding. This made them easy marks for temp agencies and unscrupulous contractors.

Among the most predatory were app-based companies, offering an endless supply of gigs and the convenience of signing up on a mobile phone. Legions of immigrant workers flocked to these platforms to schlep food and commodities to New Yorkers sheltering at home.

Now these workers are testing their newfound power in numbers, building up committees throughout the boroughs, and notching their first wins against the tech giants.


‚ÄúI get up at seven in the morning,‚ÄĚ Mancilla tells me. ‚ÄúI drop my son off at school. At nine I enter the platform, leave at one in the afternoon, come to have lunch, go back to the platform again at two and finish at eight, nine in the evening.‚ÄĚ

Twelve-hour days and seven-day weeks are common; the pay averages $300-$800 a week, The City reports. The bulk of the money comes from tips, but these often get stolen by restaurants to pay the app fee.

The 33-year-old Mancilla has the easy confidence of someone who knows his job well; he’s been delivering food for four years. He looks the part of an organizer. Workers on electric bikes beep at him as they drive by; others stop to chat, exchanging elbow-bump greetings. Many are relatives or from the same towns back home in Mexico, a common provenance that makes the outreach easier.

Some share stories of getting mugged or having their bikes stolen; safety is a major concern. ‚ÄúThe problem is when you have to go to a building or to a public housing project where you know that your colleagues have already been assaulted,‚ÄĚ Mancilla says, ‚Äúand they send you there again.‚ÄĚ

There’s also the problem of bathrooms. Adán, 23, who asked to use only his first name, argues that drivers have earned the right to use the restrooms of the restaurants that depend on them.

‚ÄúSometimes they send you to deliver 30 to 50 blocks with only a one-dollar tip,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúBut the platforms don‚Äôt tell the restaurants to allow us to use the bathroom.‚ÄĚ


The sticker he is handing out has a design flaw, Mancilla points out: one arm is holding the wrong bike handlebar. Nonetheless, it’s doing its job as a visibility-builder. Delivery workers sport it on their bikes or helmets.

One worker told Ligia Guallpa, executive director of the WJP: ‚ÄúWhen we see this sticker, we know that we belong to each other‚ÄĒbut not only that, I think the thieves are seeing these stickers, so they‚Äôre getting scared.‚ÄĚ

The stickers are also a tool to build a contact list. Whenever activists hand one out, they ask the person’s name, phone number, and what app they deliver for. They’re expanding their outreach to include workers who use Amazon Flex to deliver groceries for Whole Foods.

WJP stepped in last summer. The group‚Äôs base is with construction and domestic workers. Its program includes safety classes and campaigns that have recouped tens of thousands of dollars in stolen wages. But in May it had become an emergency relief center‚ÄĒdistributing personal protective equipment and mutual aid support to immigrant workers locked out of state relief.

As the pandemic brought new faces to WJP‚Äôs doors, Guallpa noticed many were app-based delivery drivers‚ÄĒand the working conditions they described were gruesome.

‚ÄúThey were sharing how they were carrying bottles of water to do their basic necessities, how they were treated by the restaurants, how they were pressured by the companies,‚ÄĚ she says. As independent contractors, they didn‚Äôt have the same legal protections as employees. But ‚Äúthe apps were having full control of their lives.‚ÄĚ

Soon it became clear there were vast networks of delivery drivers throughout the city. They had self-organized online through Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups based on country of origin and language. WJP offered to help conduct surveys in Arabic, Hindi, Bengali, Mandarin, Spanish, and French Creole.


The first organizing challenge was identifying the right target.

Workers initially blamed the restaurants for denying them bathrooms, and the police for not keeping them safe. But WJP organized meetings to discuss strategy and do a power analysis. ‚ÄúThe police is just one actor,‚ÄĚ Guallpa argued. ‚ÄúThey should do their jobs, but at the end of the day, they can‚Äôt give you what you need.‚ÄĚ

They ran through a list of possible targets, including the mayor and city council members. The workers decided to focus on the powerful companies to which the restaurants had a contractual obligation: the apps.

The Deliveristas‚Äô first public show of force was in October: a rally by 500-600 drivers carrying placards naming all the major food delivery apps. The negative publicity was enough to push DoorDash to meet with the drivers in December and expand bathroom access to 200 restaurants (in its network of nearly 5,000).

Mancilla says the pep talks from the WJP organizers keep him going. ‚ÄúGive it your best, guys!‚ÄĚ he says they tell him. ‚ÄúDon‚Äôt let yourselves be defeated. Understand that without you, the companies wouldn‚Äôt exist.‚ÄĚ


I meet up with some delivery drivers again on May Day in a park in Spanish Harlem, where they have gathered to unbosom their sorrow. Francisco Villalva, a 29-year-old delivery cyclist, was fatally shot in East Harlem in March during an attempted robbery.

The commemoration is organized by El Diario de los Deliveryboys en la Gran Manzana, or The Big Apple Deliveryboys‚Äô Daily, another Facebook page set up by workers; they have called for ‚Äúa day without delivery workers.‚ÄĚ People sing Mexican ballads and corridos, and pass around plates of tamales and beans.

‚ÄúToday our whole community is in mourning,‚ÄĚ says Juan Solano from the Deliveryboys. He points out Villalva‚Äôs four surviving siblings, wearing white T-shirts bearing the face of their dead brother; they‚Äôre all app-based drivers, too. The park fences are festooned with bedsheets spelling out ‚ÄúJustice for Francisco and Stop Bike Thefts‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúWe Are Tired of Not Being Heard for Not Having Papers.‚ÄĚ

How can such deaths be prevented? The Deliveryboys want a stronger police response to attacks. Los Deliveristas share the same indignation, and attribute the tepid policing to their own undocumented status. But they have devised an alternative strategy.

On rapid-response networks via WhatsApp and Telegram chat groups, drivers report thefts and assaults to one another. Send out an urgent message with your location, ‚Äúand all of a sudden you are going to see five or 10 people getting there and they help you,‚ÄĚ Mancilla says.

Scroll through any of the Deliveryboys or Los Deliveristas Facebook pages, and you‚Äôll find images of stolen bikes and live videos of drivers showing up to help their fellows on the scene of a mugging or accident. Mancilla said drivers started to realize the police wouldn‚Äôt come quickly when called‚ÄĒbut their fellow workers would.


In any growing movement there are conflicting approaches and tension points. Policing is one. Another is whether to form a union or stick to lobbying for legislative changes. Mancilla wants a union; he believes it would have the political muscle to make the police clamp down on bicycle thefts and assaults.

In the near term, the Deliveristas want a living wage, access to bathrooms, indoor rest stops, paid sick days, workers compensation for accidents, and protection against retaliation for inquiring about tip theft.

A package of five bills introduced at the city council in April would address some of these demands. One would fine restaurants for denying drivers bathroom access. Another would establish minimum pay per trip, modeled after the 2018 city ordinance that set a minimum wage for Uber and Lyft drivers. Another would allow drivers to set their own routes.

‚ÄúThere is no labor movement without organizing the new workforce, which just happens to be immigrant in New York,‚ÄĚ Guallpa says. ‚ÄúWhich is the exact same way the labor unions got started back in the day, right? They got started by immigrants.‚ÄĚ

This blog originally appeared at LaborNotes on May 20, 2021

About the Author: Luis Feliz Leon is a staff writer and organizer with Labor Notes.

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Masks for thee, but not for me?

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Rebecca Rainey

What everyone‚Äôs thinking about this week: Should workers still be required to wear masks on the job?

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suddenly updated its guidance last week to allow fully vaccinated Americans to gather without masks indoors and outdoors, even if some in their group are unvaccinated, the agency created confusion about what that change means for the workplace.

Right now, it‚Äôs up to your boss to decide whether you need to wear a mask or not. The CDC‚Äôs guidelines are optional. (The Biden administration is working on mandatory workplace Covid-19 rules, but we‚Äôll get to that later.)

The United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents 1.3 million food and retail workers, warned that the CDC failed to consider the risks the new guidance creates for workers and that it now requires them to become ‚Äúvaccination police‚ÄĚ for customers.

And employers in the same sector are taking their side: ‚ÄúThe Retail Industry Leaders Association, a trade group, said the CDC‚Äôs mask announcement creates ambiguity since it doesn‚Äôt align with state and local orders,‚ÄĚ Robbie Whelan and Sarah Nassauer reported for the Wall Street Journal. Some companies like Target and Kroger, as well as General Motors and Toyota, have decided to keep their own mask mandates in place for the time being.

BUT: Walmart, the country‚Äôs largest retailer, and subsidiary Sam‚Äôs Club said Friday it would stop requiring masks ‚ÄĒ depending on state and local rules ‚ÄĒ for fully vaccinated staff and customers, effective Tuesday. ‚ÄúUnvaccinated associates must still wear face coverings, per CDC guidance,‚ÄĚ the company said. ‚ÄúSome associates may choose to continue to wear masks, and as part of our value of respect for the individual we should all support their right to do so.‚ÄĚ Publix similarly changed its rules so that vaccinated workers and patrons don‚Äôt have to don masks.

The big takeaway: David Barron, labor and employment attorney at Cozen O‚ÄôConnor, predicts that most workers in customer-facing jobs will likely still have to wear masks, despite the CDC‚Äôs change. He also warns that it will be ‚Äúdifficult to enforce‚ÄĚ separate workplace rules for vaccinated and unvaccinated employees, which large retailers have already started to implement.

Where‚Äôs OSHA? The switcheroo from the Biden administration, which came just a few weeks after the White House urged people to still wear masks in public, raises questions about the future of any mandatory Covid-19 workplace safety rules. These rules were expected to be issued by mid-March, but weren‚Äôt sent to the Office of Management and Budget for final review until April 26.

Workplace safety experts and attorneys say that rules issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are typically strongly influenced by CDC guidelines ‚ÄĒ and the CDC‚Äôs advice regarding masks has been changed twice by the Biden administration in less than a month.

WE KEEP ON WAITING: Once the OSHA rules clear the White House budget office, they will become public and go into effect. OMB has review meetings on the rules scheduled through May 24, meaning we‚Äôre still at least a week away from seeing them.

This blog originally appeared at Politico on May 17, 2020.

About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter.

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How Offices Are Tackling The Change In Security Demands

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The conversation about workplace security is not a new one. However, with the evolving demand for health-conscious solutions, the discussion of office security has taken a new turn. 

Remote work and in-office safety precautions to combat COVID-19 has triggered a movement of flexible and resilient workplaces. Employers and employees alike will no doubt see a shift in security and operational protocol in the very near future. Below, we‚Äôll discuss how offices are preparing for just that. 

The Shift to Identity Security 

Network security refers to software – whether it be on-site or otherwise – that sets the security parameter for access authorization. What this means is that a security system grants authorization based off of an identity that the network assigns each particular individual. This identity is associated with different permissions, access, etc. New security standards made possible by new technological advances, however, are finding it more secure to associate authorization with individual identity as opposed to one that is network-assigned. 

Identity security can be assigned to any credential, such as a mobile phone or a biometric characteristic. This eliminates the risk of a physical security breach from a lost, stolen or cloned key card. Cloud managed systems make it easy to assign security permissions and authorizations to any identification credential they choose. Further, system administrators are able to change those permissions of their own volition as opposed to interacting with a third party system operator or hardware. 

When it comes to visitor management, cloud-based office intercom systems also have the capacity to assign identity to visitors within the same platform for a comprehensive access database. 

Advanced Cybersecurity for Remote Work 

Cybersecurity is a constant threat for businesses. When employees are working from the office, they use devices and protocols that are secured with the latest layers of physical and electronic security. But remote work often means that employees use personal devices and public Wi-Fi networks that can expose sensitive data to vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities can result in costly data breaches and system compromise. 

Companies are taking a proactive approach to thwart the data breach and liability challenges associated with remote work. Increasing awareness and sensitizing users on potential dangers is a great first step. Other measures include educating remote workers on preventive best practices, and implementing strict password policies with two-factor authentication. 

Coworking Spaces 

Coworking is a new take on the traditional office model. It‚Äôs incredibly flexible, convenient, and has shown to be very popular, yet there are still security challenges that need to be ironed out. 

A 2020 Clutch Survey shows that 23% of users in a co-working space are concerned with security and safety issues. To rectify this, coworking space owners and operators are allocating unique credentials and Wi-Fi passwords to users. Coworking users are also being provided with a security policy as part of their sign in agreement. 

When it comes to physical security, coworking spaces are adopting advanced, secure visitor management-like models for temporary access. This approach perfectly aligns with the primary idea behind the coworking model. 

Touchless Access Control 

Office security must ensure employee wellness in addition to physical security. The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the need to mitigate health safety risks in the office setting. Along with CDC guidelines such as social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing, offices are leveraging technology for a more health-conscious approach to security. Touchless access control solutions are being used to reduce the need to touch high-use surfaces at entrances, exits, and elevators. This technology facilitates a frictionless and touchless access experience that encourages social distancing by reducing bottlenecking and mitigates the spread of disease. 


Security will continue to be a discussion among the workplace, and companies that join that conversation to utilize the latest technology and trends will remain resilient and foster business continuity. As offices move to tackle the shift in security, employees can do their best to educate themselves on the changes to come and how they work in order to create the most secure environment possible. 

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: Haley Fox has several years of experience as an Employment and Labor Paralegal, specializing in specialty occupation workplace visas and employer compliance. She currently works with Swiftlane to advocate for workplace innovation and safety. 

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Furious to Curious: 7 Signs You’re Intimidated by Your Employer (… and How to Overcome It)

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Workplace intimidation is often so subtle and insidious that it becomes difficult to identify. This is made worse by the fact that it generally takes on a pattern of bullying actions over a long period, rather than being an isolated incident. When left unchecked, it can become a culture that‚Äôs nearly impossible to get rid of. 

The main issue in the workplace is that the person guilty of intimidation wants to control the behavior of the person being bullied. Having your emotions, psychological health, and sometimes even physical well-being controlled by someone is never acceptable. Not even when that person is your employer. 

Being in a position of leadership doesn‚Äôt automatically give someone the right to control their employees. True leadership has nothing to do with control, and everything with leading by example, in fairness, and with integrity. 

Below are 7 signs you‚Äôre intimidated by your employer:  

1. They Always Have Their Way

If your employer is forever trying to force you to do everything their way, then chances are you‚Äôre a victim of intimidation. 

The reason(s) they‚Äôre forcing you to do things their way is irrelevant. And the reason for this is that whatever they‚Äôre telling you (and often themselves) in an attempt at self-justification is probably not the real reason at all. Instead, intimidation is nearly always driven by a need to feel that their opinion is the only opinion that really matters. 

2. They Play Dirty

Employers who intimidate their workers will often leave no stone unturned if it means achieving their goal. 

These individuals are often sneaky about the ways that they cause their victims harm and discomfort. Of the many tricks deployed by office bullies, the act of ignoring someone is probably the most effective. At the same time, it‚Äôs also the least likely to be detected. 

Those who feel the need to resort to intimidation in the workplace do so because of their own shortcomings and insecurities. For this reason, the employer will often follow the path of least resistance and ignore any arguments or input. This makes ignoring others as a bullying tactic especially attractive, as they‚Äôre unwilling to own up to their crimes. 

3. Forever Changing Expectations

One sure-fire way to guarantee an employee will never be able to live up to an employer‚Äôs strict standards is to constantly move the goalposts. 

Intimidation can often be seen to take on the form of unclear goals and vague directions. The intimidating employer knows how easy it is to create a hostile environment simply by avoiding clear communication. 

4. They Often Interrupt

If your employer is constantly interrupting you when you‚Äôre talking, or even chiming in when it‚Äôs not their turn to speak, you‚Äôre probably being purposefully intimidated. 

An example of this would be to be summoned to a meeting but not afforded the space or the opportunity to give input, ask questions, and make suggestions. Employers guilty of intimidation will often take this route on purpose as it gives them the opportunity to discredit their employees in public. 

5. They Don’t Respect Your Time

Most employees are more than willing to put in extra hours and effort when asked. This is often a reasonable expectation in the workplace.

The point when such a request becomes unreasonable, and a likely weapon of intimidation, is when schedules are constantly changed, often with little to no notice. 

It‚Äôs important to realize that your time is just as valuable as your employers. For this reason, it deserves to be honored in a manner that‚Äôs considerate and respectful. 

6. They Create A Culture Of Secrecy

A culture of secrecy and exclusion is nearly always a sign of intimidation in the workplace. This can take on several forms when it‚Äôs an agenda pushed by an employer. 

Examples include keeping you out of the know about a new project, planning a social event/get-together at the office without you, or even planning something special for occasions like birthdays for select employees only. 

Secrecy is never part of a happy and healthy office or working environment, and is a favorite intimidation tactic. 

7. Selective Micromanagement 

Micromanagement is another favored tactic used to intimidate employees. 

While many managers are repeat offenders in micromanaging because they cannot successfully delegate duties and responsibilities, others may deploy this as a brazen, outright method of intimidation. 

A red flag to look out for is selective micromanagement, where you‚Äôre micromanaged more than your fellow-employees for no good reason. This often involves an expectation of constantly upholding impossible levels of performance in the workplace. 

How To Overcome Intimidation

Overcoming intimidation by an employer is a process, and should not be expected to happen overnight. In some cases, it may be best to polish up your resume and move on, but this should only be as a last resort. For the best chance of overcoming the issue, try the following: 

  • Speak to HR about the issues you‚Äôre experiencing. Ask them to take steps towards correcting them.
  • Know your rights. A hostile work environment is a form of discrimination. If HR cannot assist, there are legal avenues you can pursue for assistance.
  • Keep clear records of dates and times of all incidents. Create a timeline that shows a pattern and identifies the issue clearly.
  • Confront your employer head on. Tell them that you recognize their actions and be clear about your expectations for the future. 
  • Resist the urge to react negatively. This plays into the bully and gives them the response they want.

Bullying in the workplace is on the rise, and intimidation is a form of bullying. If you know your rights, how to cope with intimidation, and can seek assistance from HR, you can put an end to this undesirable behavior. 

This blog is printed with permission.

About the Author: Lee Anna Carrillo is a community manager at Resumoo, a resume writing service, and career resource database. Resumoo is owned by Ranq Digital LLC, a marketing and media company located in Charlotte, NC.

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4 Overlooked Workplace Safety Hazards and What You Can Do About It

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According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018, there were 2.8 million injuries in the workplace. On average, a worker injury costs a company between $38,000 and $150,000. As a facility safety manager, your job is to minimize hazards and save the company money by decreasing injuries in the workplace.

However, that’s often easier said than done. This is especially true if you work in a warehouse or factory, where hazardous equipment is part of the job. You probably already follow the standard advice, like cleaning up spills or enforcing safety training. But you might be overlooking some hidden hazards.

Here’s a look at four commonly overlooked workplace safety hazards with some tips to overcome them.

1. Overworking Employees

Every company has quotas, minimums, and costs to cut. Unfortunately, this often leads to overworked employees. Overworked employees are often suffering from severe fatigue. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleepy workers are 70% more likely to have a workplace accident.

Aside from fatigue, overextended employees are often burnt out and suffering from a lack of motivation. This not only hurts company efficiency, but it can lead to these employees being more lackadaisical about safety precautions or take more shortcuts.

Tips to Decrease the Risk: Be sure that workers aren’t working too many hours. Foster an environment that encourages a work-life balance. A happy and rested staff leads to more focused work.

2. Too Much Clutter

Keeping your facility clean is crucial, but it’s not just about deep cleaning. Clutter and disorganization can be more disrupting than a stain on the floor. If workers have to navigate machinery around a maze of clutter, the chance for an accident increases exponentially.

Inventory, trash piles, and general stuff can pile up quickly. Additionally, liquids and standing puddles can cause catastrophes. It’s not uncommon for facilities to allow standing water or liquids because their existing solutions aren’t cutting it.

Tips to Decrease the Risk: Work on developing cleaning routines for your workers and promote an environment of cleanliness. Encourage workers to keep their work areas clean and clutter-free. If there are areas that lack organization, get in, and organize them. If your facility is struggling with spills and standing water, be sure to upgrade your solutions. Consider using an industrial pre sloped trench drain system versus a standard grate drain. Or, if standing water in the parking lot is an issue, look into permeable paving.

3. Not Accounting for Comfort

While this one aligns with overworked employees, worker comfort can also become a safety hazard. If your employees work in confined spaces, uncomfortable temperatures, or in environments laden with pollutants and toxic air, they aren’t going to be comfortable.

Why does this matter? The Workers’ Compensation Board wrote an entire book on the hazard of confined spaces. Workers who work in tight areas are at higher risk of toxic fumes, low levels of oxygen, falling objects, poor visibility, and more. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s also dangerous.

Temperature extremes have obvious consequences like heat exhaustion and hypothermia. Beyond that, if it‚Äôs too hot or too cold, your workers are going to feel demotivated, exhausted. As we‚Äôve already talked about, an exhausted and unmotivated worker can lead to dangerous situations. 

Tips to Decrease the Risks: Take inventory of your workers’ comfort level. If they‚Äôre complaining about discomfort, the chances are that those uncomfortable working conditions have more serious implications. If confined spaces, temperatures, and toxic fumes are unavoidable, allow for more frequent breaks. Additionally, to combat dust build-up (which accounts for 12% of serious employee lung issues), invest in an industrial vacuum cleaner. These vacuums also ensure that the air stays breathable while minimizing the risk of combustion.

4. Ignoring Ergonomics

You probably had your employees watch a training video or read a manual about ergonomics. If they have to do any heavy lifting or maneuvering, ergonomics is crucial. According to The National Safety Council, the second leading cause of injury in adults is overexertion. It’s also the cause of 35% of workplace injuries. Additionally, it’s the most significant contributor to workers’ compensation, and it’s the primary reason for missed workdays.

It’s the simple things, like lifting with your legs and taking breaks. It’s avoiding repetitive motions. Taking ergonomics into account is all about thinking about people’s efficiency and body movements in the workplace.

Tips to Decrease Risks: Encourage proper maneuvering habits with your employees. That one-time training when the company hired them isn‚Äôt enough. Instead, ergonomic training should be ongoing and enforced. Consider regular assessments of your workers’ form to make sure that they know how to safely and effectively do their jobs. 

Creating a Safe Work Environment

Eliminating safety hazards is an ongoing and ever-evolving process. It requires diligence and attention to detail. Facility safety managers often overlook these four hazards. However, ignoring them could be dangerous and costly.

Do yourself and your company a favor by being proactive and taking action to avoid these common hazards. Moreover, be diligent about stopping any problematic behaviors or habits in their tracks. Your job isn’t an easy one, but it’s necessary for the safety of your employees and the posterity of your company.

About the Author: Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.

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This Amazon Grocery Runner Has Risked Her Job to Fight for Better Safety Measures

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This arti¬≠cle is part of a series on Ama¬≠zon work¬≠ers pro¬≠duced in part¬≠ner¬≠ship with the Eco¬≠nom¬≠ic Hard¬≠ship Report¬≠ing Project.

Courte¬≠nay Brown spends her day mak¬≠ing gro¬≠cery runs for oth¬≠ers in a¬†foot¬≠ball-field-sized maze of nar¬≠row aisles and refrig¬≠er¬≠at¬≠ed enclaves. At the Ama¬≠zon Fresh unit in a¬†Newark, New Jer¬≠sey ful¬≠fill¬≠ment cen¬≠ter, she works on the out¬≠bound ship dock, help¬≠ing direct the load¬≠ing of trucks and send them off on local deliv¬≠ery routes. Brown says that after near¬≠ly three years at the e-tail empire, her job has been¬†‚Äúhell.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúImag¬≠ine a¬†real¬≠ly intense work¬≠out, like you just got off of the tread¬≠mill, no cool down, no noth¬≠ing,‚ÄĚ she describes one espe¬≠cial¬≠ly gru¬≠el¬≠ing day with a¬†resigned laugh.¬†‚ÄúThat‚Äôs how my legs¬†felt.‚ÄĚ

Ama¬≠zon Fresh employ¬≠ees often have to comb through huge stocks of var¬≠i¬≠ous chilled and frozen items, which means they need to wear full win¬≠ter clothes to work. The stress and phys¬≠i¬≠cal exhaus¬≠tion of the job tends to wear out many new hires with¬≠in their first few days.¬†‚ÄúYou don‚Äôt have that many that have last¬≠ed here,‚ÄĚ she says.¬†‚ÄúIt‚Äôs so¬†hard.‚ÄĚ

With the pan¬≠dem¬≠ic keep¬≠ing con¬≠sumers indoors, Ama¬≠zon gro¬≠cery sales have rough¬≠ly tripled in the sec¬≠ond quar¬≠ter over last year. The num¬≠ber of deliv¬≠ery trucks mov¬≠ing in and out of the Newark ful¬≠fill¬≠ment cen¬≠ter has jumped accordingly.

‚ÄúEvery day I¬†come in, it‚Äôs just more and more and more and more,‚ÄĚ Brown says.¬†‚ÄúLit¬≠er¬≠al¬≠ly every day we break the pre¬≠vi¬≠ous day‚Äôs record for the total num¬≠ber of routes that went out for the entire¬†day.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúOnce we get home [from work], the only thing we can do is show¬≠er and dis¬≠in¬≠fect,‚ÄĚ she con¬≠tin¬≠ues.¬†‚ÄúA lot of us [are] too exhaust¬≠ed to eat. We pass out. Then we repeat the process the fol¬≠low¬≠ing day.‚ÄĚ Some cowork¬≠ers have end¬≠ed up over¬≠sleep¬≠ing, she adds, and¬†‚Äúend up miss¬≠ing the whole¬†day.‚ÄĚ

For its part, an Ama¬≠zon spokesper¬≠son wrote in an email that while some jobs at Ama¬≠zon Fresh are phys¬≠i¬≠cal¬≠ly tax¬≠ing, work¬≠ers can choose less stren¬≠u¬≠ous labor.

‚ÄúImag¬≠ine your stan¬≠dard nor¬≠mal super¬≠mar¬≠ket aisle, [then] cut that in half,‚ÄĚ she observes.¬†‚ÄúYou‚Äôre expect¬≠ed to go through that aisle with oth¬≠er peo¬≠ple stock¬≠ing the shelves, or clean¬≠ing‚Ķ it‚Äôs real¬≠ly, real¬≠ly, real¬≠ly¬†cramped.‚ÄĚ

Ama¬≠zon boasts mak¬≠ing¬†150¬†oper¬≠a¬≠tional changes¬†dur¬≠ing the pan¬≠dem¬≠ic that include dis¬≠trib¬≠ut¬≠ing mil¬≠lions of masks at work¬≠sites, adding thou¬≠sands of jan¬≠i¬≠to¬≠r¬≠i¬≠al staff, and rede¬≠ploy¬≠ing some per¬≠son¬≠nel to help enforce social dis¬≠tanc¬≠ing rules. While it has imple¬≠ment¬≠ed social-dis¬≠tanc¬≠ing rules, and even pro¬≠vides an elec¬≠tron¬≠ic mon¬≠i¬≠tor¬≠ing sys¬≠tem to help keep work¬≠ers sev¬≠er¬≠al feet apart on the ware¬≠house floor, Brown says work spaces are still too crowd¬≠ed:¬†‚ÄúIt‚Äôs pret¬≠ty much a¬†show‚ĶWhere I¬†work on the ship dock, we‚Äôre all mashed up¬†together.‚ÄĚ

The tense atmos¬≠phere has¬†‚Äúdef¬≠i¬≠nite¬≠ly changed the rela¬≠tion¬≠ship‚ÄĚ among work¬≠ers, she con¬≠tends. Her fel¬≠low employ¬≠ees were friend¬≠lier before, but now¬†‚Äúa lot of peo¬≠ple snap at each oth¬≠er a¬†bit more.‚ÄĚ

The threat of COVID-19¬†has only added to the psy¬≠cho¬≠log¬≠i¬≠cal bur¬≠den.¬†‚ÄúWhen the pan¬≠dem¬≠ic first start¬≠ed, I¬†remem¬≠ber a¬†lot of us were watch¬≠ing the news,‚ÄĚ Brown reflects.¬†‚ÄúI was talk¬≠ing to man¬≠agers and try¬≠ing to get them [to lis¬≠ten].¬†‚ÄėHey, you know, this is going on and we might want to start prepar¬≠ing.‚Äô And they [were] just [act¬≠ing] like it [was] not that big of a¬†deal. Peo¬≠ple are dying, and it‚Äôs not that big of a¬†deal?‚ÄĚ

Although Ama¬≠zon even¬≠tu¬≠al¬≠ly enact¬≠ed safe¬≠ty mea¬≠sures, Brown says she and her col¬≠leagues spent¬†‚Äúmonths com¬≠plain¬≠ing‚ÄĚ about what they saw as sub¬≠stan¬≠dard pro¬≠tec¬≠tions, includ¬≠ing inad¬≠e¬≠quate safe¬≠ty gear and social-dis¬≠tanc¬≠ing mea¬≠sures. An Ama¬≠zon spokesper¬≠son main¬≠tains the com¬≠pa¬≠ny moved to pro¬≠tect its work¬≠ers at the out¬≠set of the pan¬≠dem¬≠ic, and that masks were¬†dis¬≠trib¬≠uted¬†in ear¬≠ly¬†April.

But Brown bris¬≠tles at the com¬≠pa¬≠ny‚Äôs claims, say¬≠ing the response was slow and devoid of trans¬≠paren¬≠cy. Work¬≠ers were espe¬≠cial¬≠ly upset, she recalls, when they received news of a COVID-19 infec¬≠tion at their site two weeks after the indi¬≠vid¬≠ual had report¬≠ed¬≠ly tak¬≠en ill.

Even¬≠tu¬≠al¬≠ly, Brown con¬≠nect¬≠ed with oth¬≠er Ama¬≠zon orga¬≠niz¬≠ers through an online peti¬≠tion cir¬≠cu¬≠lat¬≠ed by the advo¬≠ca¬≠cy net¬≠work Unit¬≠ed for Respect. Ear¬≠li¬≠er this year, she began work¬≠ing with the Athena coali¬≠tion to pres¬≠sure Ama¬≠zon to rein¬≠state some work¬≠er pro¬≠tec¬≠tions that were insti¬≠tut¬≠ed ear¬≠li¬≠er on in the pan¬≠dem¬≠ic and then dis¬≠con¬≠tin¬≠ued. The work¬≠ers are demand¬≠ing¬†the restora¬≠tion of¬†‚Äúhaz¬≠ard pay‚Ä̬†for ful¬≠fill¬≠ment-cen¬≠ter work¬≠ers, as well as¬†unlim¬≠it¬≠ed unpaid leave¬†for those who opt to stay home to pro¬≠tect their health. (Over the objec¬≠tions of its work¬≠force, Ama¬≠zon end¬≠ed unlim¬≠it¬≠ed unpaid leave and scrapped its $2¬†hourly¬†‚Äúincen¬≠tive‚ÄĚ bonus in May.) The coali¬≠tion is also push¬≠ing for more trans¬≠paren¬≠cy in the report¬≠ing of new cas¬≠es, so man¬≠age¬≠ment will¬†‚Äúactu¬≠al¬≠ly tell us the truth about the num¬≠bers of peo¬≠ple that are¬†sick.‚ÄĚ

In April, Brown par­tic­i­pat­ed in a media con­fer­ence call with Sen. Cory Book­er, D-N.J., to pro­mote an Essen­tial Work­ers Bill of Rights that would beef up health and safe­ty pro­tec­tions, pro­vide child­care sup­port and uni­ver­sal paid leave poli­cies, and pro­tect whistle­blow­ers. More recent­ly, she was fea­tured in a New York Times video about the work­ing con­di­tions at Ama­zon. She claims her pub­lic cam­paign­ing has drawn the ire of management.

‚ÄúI‚Äôm harassed every day, all day,‚ÄĚ she says. One safe¬≠ty super¬≠vi¬≠sor in par¬≠tic¬≠u¬≠lar is¬†‚Äújust watch¬≠ing‚ÄĚ to see if she vio¬≠lates the company‚Äôs social-dis¬≠tanc¬≠ing¬†rules.

Brown recalls a¬†recent inci¬≠dent in which she was speak¬≠ing casu¬≠al¬≠ly with some co-work¬≠ers about safe¬≠ty issues when the super¬≠vi¬≠sor inter¬≠vened, shout¬≠ing at them to keep six feet apart. Although they were all main¬≠tain¬≠ing their dis¬≠tance, she says,¬†‚Äúhe [yelled],¬†‚Äėyou‚Äôre in a¬†group!‚Äô‚ÄĚ They answered,¬†‚ÄúYeah, but we‚Äôre all six feet apart from each oth¬≠er with our masks on.‚ÄĚ But she says the man¬≠ag¬≠er nonethe¬≠less threat¬≠ened to write them up and warned they could be¬†terminated.

Ama¬≠zon has stat¬≠ed that it oppos¬≠es retal¬≠i¬≠a¬≠tion against employ¬≠ees who voice their con¬≠cerns about work¬≠ing con¬≠di¬≠tions. But like oth¬≠er Ama¬≠zon orga¬≠niz¬≠ers, Brown believes her treat¬≠ment reflects a broad¬≠er cam¬≠paign aimed at dis¬≠suad¬≠ing employ¬≠ees from organizing.

‚ÄúWhat they‚Äôll do is they‚Äôll find an indi¬≠vid¬≠ual, and they‚Äôll kind of make an exam¬≠ple of you. And that scares every¬≠body else,‚ÄĚ she says. Her obser¬≠va¬≠tions are affirmed by a recent Open Mar¬≠kets Insti¬≠tute report that finds that Ama¬≠zon has used sophis¬≠ti¬≠cat¬≠ed work¬≠place sur¬≠veil¬≠lance tac¬≠tics to intim¬≠i¬≠date and sup¬≠press work¬≠ers who seek to union¬≠ize or chal¬≠lenge the company‚Äôs labor practices.

Brown, mean¬≠while, is ded¬≠i¬≠cat¬≠ed to improv¬≠ing her work¬≠place. This is not the first time she has faced hos¬≠tile cir¬≠cum¬≠stances, both inside the Ama¬≠zon ware¬≠house and out. For a¬†stretch in¬†2018, she had to live in a¬†motel with her sis¬≠ter, who also works at Ama¬≠zon, because the two could not secure a¬†rental apart¬≠ment with the wages they were earn¬≠ing deliv¬≠er¬≠ing food for the cor¬≠po¬≠rate behe¬≠moth.¬†‚ÄúWe were lit¬≠er¬≠al¬≠ly starv¬≠ing,‚ÄĚ she says.¬†‚ÄúWe weren‚Äôt mak¬≠ing enough to be able to pay for the room, eat, and make it to and from¬†work.‚ÄĚ

Ama¬≠zon has denied charges of employ¬≠ee sur¬≠veil¬≠lance, dis¬≠miss¬≠ing the Open Mar¬≠kets Insti¬≠tute as¬†‚Äúa peren¬≠ni¬≠al crit¬≠ic that will¬≠ful¬≠ly ignores‚ÄĚ the com¬≠pa¬≠ny‚Äôs record of cre¬≠at¬≠ing jobs with¬†‚Äúindus¬≠try lead¬≠ing wages and ben¬≠e¬≠fits.‚ÄĚ The com¬≠pa¬≠ny claims that it does eval¬≠u¬≠ate work¬≠ers‚Äô per¬≠for¬≠mance¬†‚Äúover a¬†long peri¬≠od of time,‚ÄĚ and pro¬≠vides under-per¬≠form¬≠ing work¬≠ers with¬†‚Äúded¬≠i¬≠cat¬≠ed coach¬≠ing to help them¬†improve.‚ÄĚ

Giv¬≠en the dan¬≠gers of speak¬≠ing out, Brown some¬≠times won¬≠ders if she might end up home¬≠less again. But she‚Äôs less fear¬≠ful about los¬≠ing her job than she is about the health haz¬≠ards she faces every day as she fights to hold her employ¬≠er account¬≠able.¬†‚ÄúIt‚Äôs real¬≠ly ter¬≠ri¬≠fy¬≠ing,‚ÄĚ she says,¬†‚Äúbut if I¬†don‚Äôt do this, then I¬†could poten¬≠tial¬≠ly get sick and¬†die.‚ÄĚ

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on October 7, 2020. Reprinted with permission

About the Author: Michelle Chen is a con¬≠tribut¬≠ing writer at In These Times and The Nation, a con¬≠tribut¬≠ing edi¬≠tor at Dis¬≠sent and a co-pro¬≠duc¬≠er of the ‚ÄúBela¬≠bored‚ÄĚ pod¬≠cast. She stud¬≠ies his¬≠to¬≠ry at the CUNY Grad¬≠u¬≠ate Cen¬≠ter. She tweets at @meeshellchen.

About the Author: Molly Crabapple is an artist and writer in New York, and is the author of, most recent¬≠ly, Draw¬≠ing Blood and Broth¬≠ers of the Gun, (with Mar¬≠wan Hisham). Her art is in the per¬≠ma¬≠nent col¬≠lec¬≠tions of the Muse¬≠um of Mod¬≠ern Art. Her ani¬≠mat¬≠ed short, A Mes¬≠sage from the Future with Alexan¬≠dria Oca¬≠sio-Cortez, has been nom¬≠i¬≠nat¬≠ed for a 2020 Emmy for Out¬≠stand¬≠ing News Analy¬≠sis: Edi¬≠to¬≠r¬≠i¬≠al and Opinion.

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Meet the Warehouse Worker Who Took On Amazon Over Inhumane Conditions and Harassment

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Hibaq Mohamed has worked for Ama¬≠zon near¬≠ly as long as she‚Äôs been in the Unit¬≠ed States. In 2016, the twen¬≠ty-some¬≠thing Soma¬≠li immi¬≠grant land¬≠ed in Min¬≠neso¬≠ta by way of a refugee camp, join¬≠ing one of the largest East African com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠ties in the coun¬≠try. She soon joined the legion of work¬≠ers who fuel the state‚Äôs main Ama¬≠zon facil¬≠i¬≠ty, the MSP1 ful¬≠fill¬≠ment cen¬≠ter in Shakopee, near the Twin Cities.

‚ÄúThis was my first job,‚ÄĚ Mohamed says.¬†‚ÄúThey were hir¬≠ing work¬≠ers ‚Ķ East African and peo¬≠ple like me. [These work¬≠ers] didn‚Äôt have a¬†lot of expe¬≠ri¬≠ence, they don‚Äôt know a¬†lot.‚Ä̬†

The Shakopee facil¬≠i¬≠ty employs rough¬≠ly 1,000 work¬≠ers to exe¬≠cute Amazon‚Äôs high¬≠ly mech¬≠a¬≠nized work reg¬≠i¬≠men every day, pack¬≠ing orders at a fren¬≠zied rate of around 250 units per hour. While items zip down a con¬≠vey¬≠or belt, the work¬≠ers are mon¬≠i¬≠tored, through an auto¬≠mat¬≠ed sys¬≠tem, to track their speed and any errors that might dam¬≠age their per¬≠for¬≠mance ratings.

On top of the pres¬≠sure to meet quo¬≠tas, Mohamed says man¬≠age¬≠ment decid¬≠ed to¬†‚Äúfire a¬†crazy num¬≠ber of work¬≠ers‚ÄĚ short¬≠ly after she start¬≠ed work¬≠ing there.¬†‚ÄúAnd they are not telling us what they fired them for,‚ÄĚ she recalls. She says the work¬≠ers were immi¬≠grants who did not speak Eng¬≠lish¬†fluently.

Though Ama¬≠zon says these were sea¬≠son¬≠al hires‚ÄĒand were there¬≠fore dis¬≠missed once their tem¬≠po¬≠rary stints end¬≠ed, the seem¬≠ing lack of trans¬≠paren¬≠cy trou¬≠bled Mohamed.¬†‚ÄúI feel like this was unfair,‚ÄĚ she¬†says.

Around¬†2017, Mohamed and oth¬≠er East African immi¬≠grant work¬≠ers start¬≠ed meet¬≠ing with the¬†Awood Cen¬≠ter, a¬†Min¬≠neapo¬≠lis work¬≠er cen¬≠ter. As fledg¬≠ling com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠ty orga¬≠niz¬≠ers, Mohamed says,¬†‚ÄúWe have to be smart, we have to have the train¬≠ing to do this.‚ÄĚ Over the past two years, East African work¬≠ers have¬†spear¬≠head¬≠ed a¬†num¬≠ber of walk¬≠outs and protests¬†at Ama¬≠zon against what they per¬≠ceive as incom¬≠pe¬≠tence, inhu¬≠mane pro¬≠duc¬≠tiv¬≠i¬≠ty stan¬≠dards and a¬†lack of diver¬≠si¬≠ty among the man¬≠age¬≠ment. Images of hijabis walk¬≠ing the pick¬≠et line and ban¬≠ners pro¬≠claim¬≠ing that work¬≠ers are¬†‚Äúnot robots‚ÄĚ gar¬≠nered nation¬≠al¬†headlines.¬†

Fol¬≠low¬≠ing ini¬≠tial protests in¬†2018, Ama¬≠zon man¬≠age¬≠ment sat down with MSP1‚Äôs East African work¬≠ers to dis¬≠cuss work¬≠ing con¬≠di¬≠tions‚ÄĒhigh¬≠ly unusu¬≠al for Ama¬≠zon, which had pre¬≠vi¬≠ous¬≠ly avoid¬≠ed such direct talks with¬†workers.

Ama¬≠zon even¬≠tu¬≠al¬≠ly agreed to make some accom¬≠mo¬≠da¬≠tions at the facil¬≠i¬≠ty, such as com¬≠mit¬≠ting man¬≠agers to meet quar¬≠ter¬≠ly with work¬≠ers and respond to com¬≠plaints with¬≠in five days, accord¬≠ing to the New York Times. But work¬≠ers have con¬≠tin¬≠ued to com¬≠plain about the intense pro¬≠duc¬≠tiv¬≠i¬≠ty pres¬≠sure, which often leaves them with¬≠out time for dai¬≠ly prayers and bath¬≠room breaks, despite Ama¬≠zon claim¬≠ing that work¬≠ers can pray at any time. MSP1 also has one of the high¬≠est injury rates among Amazon‚Äôs ful¬≠fill¬≠ment centers.

Awood has become a¬†hub for the East African work¬≠er com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠ty, teach¬≠ing orga¬≠niz¬≠ing tac¬≠tics and build¬≠ing mutu¬≠al sup¬≠port. Awood oper¬≠ates as a¬†grass¬≠roots group and not a¬†for¬≠mal union, but oth¬≠er unions‚ÄĒinclud¬≠ing the¬†Ser¬≠vice Employ¬≠ees Inter¬≠na¬≠tion¬≠al Union¬†and¬†the Team¬≠sters‚ÄĒhave been sup¬≠port¬≠ing Ama¬≠zon work¬≠ers at MSP1¬†and oth¬≠er¬†facilities.

Just over a month after Min¬≠neso¬≠ta issued stay-at-home orders, Ama¬≠zon elim¬≠i¬≠nat¬≠ed unlim¬≠it¬≠ed unpaid time off for those who opt¬≠ed to stay home for health con¬≠cerns, which trig¬≠gered a walk¬≠out by more than 50 MSP1 work¬≠ers. The work¬≠ers also protest¬≠ed what they said was the retal¬≠ia¬≠to¬≠ry fir¬≠ing of two work¬≠er activists, Faiza Osman (who Awood claims was ter¬≠mi¬≠nat¬≠ed after stay¬≠ing home with her chil¬≠dren to avoid infec¬≠tion, but was lat¬≠er rein¬≠stat¬≠ed) and Bashir Mohamed (who appar¬≠ent¬≠ly was dis¬≠ci¬≠plined for vio¬≠lat¬≠ing social dis¬≠tanc¬≠ing guide¬≠lines, which work¬≠ers say are selec¬≠tive¬≠ly enforced).

Work¬≠ers‚Äô fears about the virus were con¬≠firmed in June, when about 90 ware¬≠house employ¬≠ees test¬≠ed pos¬≠i¬≠tive for Covid-19. Bloomberg report¬≠ed that Ama¬≠zon had care¬≠ful¬≠ly tracked the Covid-19 infec¬≠tion rate at MSP1, but did not dis¬≠close details on the num¬≠ber of cas¬≠es to workers.

Man¬≠age¬≠ment¬†‚Äúwant[ed] to hide it,‚ÄĚ Mohamed says. But while the high¬≠er-ups were not exposed like the front¬≠line work¬≠ers on the ware¬≠house floor,¬†‚ÄúWe are the ones who are going togeth¬≠er to the bath¬≠room, to the break room. We are the ones get¬≠ting the¬†virus.‚ÄĚ

Ama¬≠zon¬†has boast¬≠ed¬†about its Covid-19¬†response, claim¬≠ing it has tak¬≠en exten¬≠sive mea¬≠sures to keep work¬≠ers safe while eas¬≠ing up on quo¬≠tas. But Mohamed says Amazon‚Äôs lead¬≠ers¬†‚Äúfocus more for the mon¬≠ey than the work¬≠ers and¬†people.‚ÄĚ

Last week, work¬≠ers‚Äô fears about their risk of infec¬≠tion were real¬≠ized when the com¬≠pa¬≠ny report¬≠ed that more than 19,000 of its 1,372,000 employ¬≠ees at Ama¬≠zon and Whole Foods had test¬≠ed pos¬≠i¬≠tive for COVID-19. Though it claims that the infec¬≠tion rate at its facil¬≠i¬≠ties was about 40 per¬≠cent low¬≠er on aver¬≠age than in sur¬≠round¬≠ing com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠ties, labor advo¬≠cates denounced the com¬≠pa¬≠ny for need¬≠less¬≠ly putting work¬≠ers‚Äô health at risk.

The man¬≠age¬≠ment seems focused on Mohamed, how¬≠ev¬≠er. Amid ris¬≠ing fears of Covid-19¬†risks at work, Mohamed¬†was writ¬≠ten up in July¬†for tak¬≠ing too much¬†‚Äútime off task,‚ÄĚ Amazon‚Äôs term for inter¬≠mit¬≠tent breaks. But she con¬≠tends she had rarely received any dis¬≠ci¬≠pli¬≠nary write-ups until the man¬≠age¬≠ment¬†‚Äúclear¬≠ly made me a¬†tar¬≠get‚ÄĚ after she had protest¬≠ed work¬≠ing¬†conditions.¬†

She wrote to Min¬≠neso¬≠ta Attor¬≠ney Gen¬≠er¬≠al Kei¬≠th Elli¬≠son seek¬≠ing pro¬≠tec¬≠tion under an exec¬≠u¬≠tive order shield¬≠ing whistle¬≠blow¬≠ers from retaliation. 

‚ÄúAma¬≠zon man¬≠agers have tar¬≠get¬≠ed me and open¬≠ly harassed me before,‚ÄĚ Mohamed wrote,¬†‚Äúbut increas¬≠ing¬≠ly dur¬≠ing the¬†pandemic.‚ÄĚ

Ama¬≠zon denies Mohamed and her cowork¬≠ers‚Äô claims of retal¬≠i¬≠a¬≠tion. Ama¬≠zon spokesper¬≠son Jen Crow¬≠croft states via email,¬†‚ÄúWe do not tol¬≠er¬≠ate any kind of dis¬≠crim¬≠i¬≠na¬≠tion in the work¬≠place and we sup¬≠port every employee‚Äôs right to crit¬≠i¬≠cize their employ¬≠er, but that doesn‚Äôt come with blan¬≠ket immu¬≠ni¬≠ty to ignore inter¬≠nal poli¬≠cies.‚ÄĚ Sim¬≠i¬≠lar¬≠ly, Ama¬≠zon attrib¬≠ut¬≠es Bashir‚Äôs dis¬≠missal to vio¬≠la¬≠tions of work¬≠place rules. It also states Osman still works at Ama¬≠zon and was not¬†fired.

Mohamed‚Äôs alle¬≠ga¬≠tions reflect a¬†broad¬≠er pat¬≠tern of fir¬≠ings and pun¬≠ish¬≠ment of work¬≠er-orga¬≠niz¬≠ers dur¬≠ing the pan¬≠dem¬≠ic, which has prompt¬≠ed law¬≠mak¬≠ers to inves¬≠ti¬≠gate Amazon‚Äôs labor prac¬≠tices.. Last week,¬†35¬†work¬≠ers at MSP1¬†staged yet anoth¬≠er walk¬≠out¬†to protest the alleged fir¬≠ing of one of Mohamed‚Äôs cowork¬≠ers, Farhiyo Warsame, for¬†‚Äútime off task‚ÄĚ vio¬≠la¬≠tions, after she had voiced con¬≠cerns about safe¬≠ty pro¬≠tec¬≠tions at¬†work.

For now, how¬≠ev¬≠er, Mohamed‚Äôs out¬≠spo¬≠ken¬≠ness might pro¬≠tect her, as the work¬≠ers‚Äô upris¬≠ings have put Amazon‚Äôs labor prac¬≠tices in the pub¬≠lic spotlight. 

Ama¬≠zon esti¬≠mates about¬†30% of its Shakopee work¬≠ers are East African, many of whom live in the Twin Cities Soma¬≠li refugee com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠ty, which has his¬≠tor¬≠i¬≠cal¬≠ly strug¬≠gled with racial dis¬≠crim¬≠i¬≠na¬≠tion and socioe¬≠co¬≠nom¬≠ic hard¬≠ship. Now, these bonds have trans¬≠formed into orga¬≠niz¬≠ing pow¬≠er against a¬†cor¬≠po¬≠rate empire. Hav¬≠ing built a¬†diverse com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠ty of mil¬≠i¬≠tant work¬≠ers at MSP1‚ÄĒSoma¬≠li, Span¬≠ish and Eng¬≠lish speak¬≠ers alike‚ÄĒMohamed knows there is safe¬≠ty in¬†numbers.

‚ÄúWe have one goal, and we can under¬≠stand each oth¬≠er,‚ÄĚ Mohamed says.¬†‚ÄúWe have the pow¬≠er to change pol¬≠i¬≠cy. ‚Ķ We have the right to exer¬≠cise that in the Unit¬≠ed States.‚ÄĚ Although the com¬≠pa¬≠ny¬†‚Äúgive[s] us a¬†lot of fear,‚ÄĚ she adds. ‚Äú[we] still have the courage to fight back and work for the change we¬†want.‚ÄĚ

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on October 5, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Michelle Chen is a¬†con¬≠tribut¬≠ing writer at In These Times and The Nation, a¬†con¬≠tribut¬≠ing edi¬≠tor at Dis¬≠sent and a¬†co-pro¬≠duc¬≠er of the¬†‚ÄúBela¬≠bored‚ÄĚ pod¬≠cast. She stud¬≠ies his¬≠to¬≠ry at the CUNY Grad¬≠u¬≠ate Cen¬≠ter. She tweets at @meeshellchen.

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Seattle makes DoorDash and Postmates pay out COVID-19 hazard pay

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Seattle really pissed off gig economy companies by imposing $2.50 in hazard pay for each food delivery order during the pandemic. It‚Äôs no surprise that some of the big companies stiffed their workers‚ÄĒbut there is a surprise here: Seattle‚Äôs Office of Labor Standards (OLS) successfully pressured DoorDash and Postmates to do internal audits and pay up.

‚ÄúAfter receiving calls from gig workers, OLS contacted the companies, informing them that if the companies resolved issues regarding premium pay and paid workers back pay and interest by a certain date, OLS would forego a formal investigation,‚ÄĚ OLS told Eater Seattle. In all, DoorDash paid $111,435 to 2,998 Seattle workers, and Postmates paid $250,515 to 2,975 workers.

‚ÄĚThe city is making clear to these multi-billion dollar delivery companies that they‚Äôre not above the law,‚ÄĚ Rachel Lauter, executive director of Working Washington and Fair Work Center, said in a statement. ‚ÄúOur worker protections are only as good as our ability to enforce them, and Seattle is demonstrating once again why we’re a national model for enforcing labor standards.‚ÄĚ

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on September 26, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor.

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