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Man bent over moving pile of boxes
Amazon is going above below and beyond in its quest for cheap labor in its warehouses. Not content merely with hiring temps to work in appalling conditions for low pay, pressuring them not to report injuries that might lead to OSHA looking into conditions in the warehouses, then firing them when they're too injured to keep up, the online retail giant is getting many of its temps from Integrity Staffing Solutions, a staffing agency that aggressively tries to keep former workers from collecting unemployment insurance benefits.

Since the payroll tax rate employers pay for unemployment insurance is higher for companies with more former employees who go on to collect unemployment, getting claims rejected could mean millions of dollars a year in extra profit for Integrity Staffing Solutions. And it goes after that money, hard:

Integrity Staffing Solutions is involved in more unemployment compensation appeal hearings—hundreds per year—than almost all other employers in Pennsylvania, according to a state source with access to the confidential records. It even surpasses Walmart, the state's largest private-sector employer that has more than 50,000 workers in Pennsylvania, the source said.

In the first nine months of 2012, Integrity Staffing Solutions was involved in more than 200 unemployment compensation appeals, the source said. No other temporary-staffing firm in Pennsylvania comes close to that number.

The Allentown Morning Call's Spencer Soper continues his stellar work on conditions in Amazon's Lehigh Valley warehouses, sitting in on appeals hearings at which Integrity Staffing Solutions contested unemployment benefits for former workers. While it wasn't necessarily unreasonable for the staffing agency to contest every case, there were also cases like that of Rosemarie Fritchman, 67, who, in Integrity Staffing Solutions' telling was fired for missing several days of work. Fritchman did miss work—because she suffered from heat exhaustion working in Amazon's warehouse and was told by warehouse medical personnel to go home. When she returned to work, with a doctor's note, she was fired.

Another woman had to quit working for Amazon after she injured herself on the job and wasn't transferred to a job she could do without chronic pain. Similarly, a man who broke his foot away from work wasn't offered light duty and wasn't given a new job when his foot healed and he reapplied, but Integrity Staffing Solutions appealed his unemployment benefits.

Before you say this is all about Integrity Staffing Solutions, not Amazon, remember that Amazon operates the warehouses and is responsible for working conditions. Beyond that, temp firms like Integrity Staffing Solutions don't engage in reprehensible policies like this only because their executives are greedy, they do it also because keeping their rates artificially low are a requirement of doing business with employers like Amazon. It's a system designed to always be passing the buck for the wretched treatment of workers caught in it, but if Amazon wanted to take the high road, it wouldn't be sending so much business the way of Integrity Staffing Solutions.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 02:28 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Invisible People.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I once worked for a company that routinely (8+ / 0-)

    denied all unemployment compensation claims.  It, too, was a temp agency, but in high tech.  Fortunately I had several emails I was able to produce that showed I had been asking for another work assignment when my current one was ending at a certain date.  I'll bet many people didn't have their documentation in line.  The temp agency rep treated it like a game - she wasn't bothered that she lost my particular case.  She was just doing what the company policy required her to do.

    I don't know if the company is still in business but I won't work for them again.

  •  Whoa whoa wait... (4+ / 0-)

    Did I read that right - that there is a tax incentive for businesses in making sure their fired employees don't collect benefits?

    Who's hair-brained idea was that?

    Education is the progressive discovery of our own ignorance. -Will Durant

    by Blue Dream on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 02:52:34 PM PST

    •  The idea is (0+ / 0-)

      that those who make high claims on the unemployment system, either because they practice poor employment vetting and then rif anyone who doesn't work out, or because they prefer to fire people rather than hold them over through slow periods, should pay higher "insurance premiums".  That way you charge those who abuse the system more, rather than make everybody else who plays fair pay more to cover them.  Of course, since those are bad/dishonest players anyway, they take the next logical step to keep their costs down and fight/intimidate their discarded employees every step of the way.

    •  Unemployment Insurance (UI) is funded by premiums (0+ / 0-)

      If you’re a company that lays off a lot of people over period of several years, you pay higher UI rates. Sort of like a guy who gets in a lot of accidents pays more for auto insurance.

      When I lived in Seattle, I knew people who worked on the fishing boats up in Alaska, then when the off-season came, the workers all got laid off and were eligible for unemployment insurance (if they didn’t find a new job for the winter). The unemployment insurance rates for fishing companies are really high because they hire people in the spring and fire people in the winter, year after year. Workers on the boats get paid very well (plus, you sleep on the boat, so you don’t pay rent, and all meals are provided by the company, so when the fishing season is over, you get a huge paycheck and you’re eligible to collect unemployment).

      The state of WA runs Unemployment Insurance as a state-government-sponsored program that breaks even and doesn’t need to show a profit. I believe many states have privatized UI. So the company running the UI program is trying to make a profit (so the rates are higher). And they try to limit the payouts (so they can make a bigger profit).

      “If you misspell some words, it’s not plagiarism.” – Some Writer

      by Dbug on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 08:04:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Some of these cases sound exactly like (0+ / 0-)

    these people are entitled to Workers' Compensation.  That's what they should be filing for first.  Granted, not the person who injured their foot not working.

    And they should have requested time off under The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

    This is a Workers' Comp case, not unemployment insurance.

    Another woman had to quit working for Amazon after she injured herself on the job and wasn't transferred to a job she could do without chronic pain.
  •  But this is definitely a Workers' Comp case. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ladybug53, marina

    I'm sorry the author of the article didn't delve into that further and report on it.

    Kull said she started working at the warehouse Dec. 5 as a gift wrapper, a job that required little walking. On Dec. 24 she switched to a packing job, which was also stationary. While working as a packer, she was offered full-time hours. She accepted the new position after being told that she would be terminated if she didn't.

    On Dec. 28, Kull said she began working as a picker, a job that involves extensive walking through the three-story warehouse. On March 4, 2011, Kull said she stepped on a bolt and twisted her right foot. She went to on-site medical personnel, who wrapped her foot and asked if she could return to work.

    "I have a high tolerance for pain," Kull said, adding that she went back to work.

    The warehouse medical personnel — she did not know their credentials — told her to continue working and report back daily until she had three pain-free days. Kull said she never had three pain free days.

    "A few days later, I had a lot of pain," Kull said. She went to the medical staff and they gave her aspirin.

  •  Shop locally (0+ / 0-)

    It is important that you shop locally. Support local business in your area. They hire your neighbors and pay local taxes. This circulates the money within the community. Which in turn helps you. Plus small businesses do not have the incentive to treat their employees badly. Because they will tell their neighbors and friends and the small shop will loose business. We have to stop exporting the wealth out of our communities.

  •  Business SOP for decades (0+ / 0-)

    Accidents may raise worker's comp payments.

    I don't need to remind people that corruption is the leading  deterrent that prevents most ethical  people from considering becoming employers (or even considering voluntarily  self-employment).

    Their is (almost) no quarter for ethical persons in the USA.

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