Amazon agrees to allow warehouse employees phone access permanently


Amazon has overturned its own ban and will now let warehouse employees keep their cell phones with them while they work, a move following months of criticism aimed at the company.

“We recognize the desire for employees to keep their mobile phones with them inside facilities, and the last two years have demonstrated that we can safely do so,” an internal Amazon statement acquired by Motherboard reads. “Therefore, we are making the temporary phone policy permanent worldwide, in all of our Operations facilities.”

In December 2021, an Amazon warehouse in Illinois collapsed after it was hit by a tornado, killing at least six people, and triggering warranted fear amongst Amazon workers that mobile phones would once again be banned in warehouses. Workers said this decision would consequently cut them off from important safety and weather warnings, and communicating with family members. The company’s ban on warehouse employees’ mobile phones was paused during the pandemic, but Amazon expressed intention at the time to have it reinstated in January 2022.

A petition with 380 signatures created by Amazon workers movement group Amazonians United in December was circulated to six warehouses. “The phone ban isn’t about our safety — it’s about their control,” the group’s statement read.

Inside the Staten Island fulfilment center.
Credit: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

Amazon workers have long campaigned for better working conditions and pay, job security, and employee rights, including cell phone access, with significant movement within the last few months. Warehouse workers in Staten Island made history by forming the first Amazon union, within a company that has historically been staunchly anti-union. Workers rallied to unionize in early April, with a second Staten Island warehouse set to vote on whether or not to unionize this week.

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