Issue #366

Supreme Court case shows how Amazon legally cheats workers

Amazon's distribution center in Phoenix

Amazon’s distribution center in Phoenix

No other company embodies the mantra “Time is money” quite like Amazon, with its seamless mastery of “just in time” logistics and round-the-clock online retail hours. But inside the cavernous warehouses that ship its goods, there are real people, and their time is not so preciously valued. So the Supreme Court is weighing their right to fair pay against the profits of an e-commerce Goliath. In Integrity Staffing Solutions v. Busk, two Amazon warehouse workers, Jesse Busk and Laurie Castro, argue that they should be paid for time spent undergoing daily security checks, designed to ensure employees don’t leave work with stolen goods. Though the roughly 25 minutes they spend on this check each day is not officially clocked, it is mandatory. So Integrity Staffing, Amazon’s warehousing subcontractor, is effectively stealing their wages by not compensating them for this time spent on the tedious routine of removing their wallet and keys and shuffling through a metal detector. Shouldn’t the subcontractor, as part of its “inventory control” operations, be paying workers overtime for the trouble they must go through to prove they’re not thieves? Michelle Chan, The Nation, 10-10-14.