Amazon for years prohibited workers from bringing their phones with them to its warehouse floors, instead requiring that employees leave the devices in their cars or in company lockers. The mandate was loosened during the pandemic, but managers in several states have already reimposed the ban, according to several workers who spoke to Bloomberg News. Smartphones can offer access to alerts on potentially dangerous weather events, as well as connect people to family during emergencies, but also can be a distraction from work and operating equipment safely.
Hundreds of thousands of Amazon warehouse workers may soon be forced to abandon their cellphones if the business reinstates a workplace ban on the devices that was lifted during the pandemic. In light of the recent tornado that slammed an Amazon delivery station in Edwardsville, Illinois, killing six employees at the 1.1 million square-foot warehouse complex, the issue is particularly severe, according to several Amazon workers and their allies.
“People are questioning the cellphone policy and are questioning whether it’s safe to have people in warehouses as large as Amazon has without some form of communication device on them,” Drew Duzinskas, who started working at Amazon more than two years ago, said in a TikTok video posted Tuesday. “They say they are going to take the cellphones away again starting at the beginning of the year, which is also the end of the holiday season when they need us most,” he added. Amazon managers in November indicated “they were going to reinstate the cellphone ban policy,” Duzinskas, who works at an Amazon warehouse in Joliet, Illinois, told CBS MoneyWatch this week. The company also posted signs on bathroom walls alerting workers that its current policy was temporary and reminding them that watching videos on the premises was against the rules, he added.
Before the pandemic, Duzinskas and hundreds of his colleagues would leave their phones in their cars or in company lockers before going to work. The second time he accidentally brought his phone to work with him, he received a “stern talking to” that included a warning that more such offenses could lead to his termination. Amazon doesn’t want people distracted by their phones, said Duzinskas, who earns a little over $19 an hour. “They expect you to work, and I’m a diligent, hardworking person, so it doesn’t affect me as much.” As things stand, the 38-year-old Duzinskas said he appreciates having access to the outside world, which includes his father and other family members. “What’s being practiced right now is people are not being penalized for having their phones out. But most of the time you want to keep it in your pocket, since the official policy is you’re not supposed to be checking your phone.”
Amazon acknowledged its past policy but stressed all employees were allowed to have their phones with them the day the twister hit, as well as in the days since. “We’re always evaluating our policies but have nothing further to share at this time,” an Amazon spokesperson stated in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. Duzinskas described his workplace 30 miles southwest of Chicago as an enormous four-story box, without a central public address system or even phone lines. Workers and the company use scanners prone to technical glitches and “a handful of walkie talkies” to communicate, he relayed. “There are times I wouldn’t mind seeing a rotary phone in there.”