FTC Sues Amazon; UK Warehouse Worker Death Draws New Scrutiny

An Amazon worker died during a shift at a U.K. warehouse, days before the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 17 state attorneys general officially filed a long-anticipated antitrust lawsuit against the e-commerce giant on Tuesday.

The unidentified employee was working at the 832,000-square-foot “CWL1” Ffordd Amazon site in Swansea, Wales, when the incident occurred on Sept. 20. He died after being taken to a local hospital for further treatment.

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“Our thoughts are with our employee’s family and friends at this sad time,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “We’re providing support to his colleagues and also conducting a thorough investigation.”

This marks the first warehouse worker death in the U.K. since another employee died at the Amazon distribution center in Tilbury in November 2021.

Two Amazon warehouse workers have died in the U.S. this year, in Fort Wayne, Ind. and Joliet, Ill. Last year, four Amazon employees died on the job at company warehouses, with a fifth worker dying days after a forklift crash.

Amazon is now under the microscope with the FTC. The commission’s lawsuit alleges that Amazon illegally wields “monopoly power.”

The FTC and 17 states accuse of Amazon preventing rivals and sellers from lowering prices; degrading quality for shoppers; overcharging sellers; stifling innovation; and preventing rivals from fairly competing against the company.

“Our complaint lays out how Amazon has used a set of punitive and coercive tactics to unlawfully maintain its monopolies,” said FTC Chair Lina Khan, in a statement. “The complaint sets forth detailed allegations noting how Amazon is now exploiting its monopoly power to enrich itself while raising prices and degrading service for the tens of millions of American families who shop on its platform and the hundreds of thousands of businesses that rely on Amazon to reach them. Today’s lawsuit seeks to hold Amazon to account for these monopolistic practices and restore the lost promise of free and fair competition.”

The agency claims that Amazon engages in illegal behavior in both its online shopping marketplace and in the many services it offers to third-party sellers, including logistics and fulfillment, as well as advertising. The FTC accused Amazon of using “anti-discounting measures” that punish sellers and deter other retailers from offering prices lower than what the e-comm giant itself advertises.

The claims extend to sellers’ ability to obtain Prime-eligibility for their products—which the FTC calls “a virtual necessity for doing business on Amazon”—saying that the firm’s “costly” fulfillment service has made it “substantially” more expensive for sellers on Amazon to also offer their products on other platforms.

In a statement, Amazon said the FTC has “radically departed from its mission of protecting consumers and competition.” The company claims that some of the challenged practices have produced greater selection, lower prices and faster delivery speeds for consumers.

“If the FTC gets its way, the result would be fewer products to choose from, higher prices, slower deliveries for consumers, and reduced options for small businesses—the opposite of what antitrust law is designed to do,” said David Zapolsky, senior vice president, Amazon global public policy and general counsel. “The lawsuit filed by the FTC today is wrong on the facts and the law, and we look forward to making that case in court.”

The antitrust lawsuit comes as workers at Amazon’s “KSBD” air hub in San Bernardino, Calif. demand a base pay increase to $25 per hour, safer working conditions and the right to a witness at meetings with management.

Outside the Southern California facility, former Amazon delivery drivers from nearby Palmdale extended their picket line as part of a nationwide three-month unfair labor practice strike. Eighty-four drivers and dispatchers for Battle-Tested Strategies, a delivery contractor terminated by Amazon, have covered more than a dozen warehouses since organizing under the Teamsters in April.

The movement comes a year after workers at the air hub organized walkouts and strikes to demand better pay and safer working conditions.

According to the Teamsters, the air hub workers received a $1.75 per hour base pay increase earlier in September, higher than the $1.25 received by nearby facilities, bringing them to a base pay of $19.75.

Amazon recently said it would hike minimum hourly starting pay for warehouse workers to $17, up from $16 in 2022. This is part of Amazon’s seasonal effort to recruit 250,000 holiday employees.

A National Employment Law Project (NELP) report aligns with the Amazon worker demands, stating that the tech titan pays less than other warehouse employers.

On average, Amazon warehouse workers make 18 percent less, or roughly $822 less a month, than warehouse workers located in comparable counties where Amazon does not operate, according to the report.

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