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Amazon warehouse culture like 'prison,' undercover author writes 

An undercover author said working in an Amazon fulfillment center is like "a prison," where workers were urinating in bottles because they did not have enough time to go to the bathroom. 

>> Read more trending news

James Bloodworth, as part of his book "Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain," spent almost a month in 2016 working as a "picker" at a fulfillment center in Rugeley, England, where he retrieved items for delivery.

In addition to his undercover work at Amazon, Bloodworth also took jobs in social care, at a call center, at a building site and even as an Uber driver to research how people cope at their workplace. 

According to Bloodworth, Amazon fulfillment workers had to meet high productivity targets that were feasible only if they ran around the warehouse. Running around the warehouse is something Amazon does not allow for safety reasons.

"The job itself is really bad," Bloodworth told Business Insider. "I've worked in warehouses before, but this was nothing like I had experienced. You don't have proper breaks — by the time you get to the canteen, you only have 15 or 20 minutes for lunch, in a 10½-hour working day. You don't have time to eat properly to get a drink.

"You have to go through security when you leave the warehouse, and that adds five minutes. It's like an airport — belt off, watch off. The atmosphere is what I imagine a prison feels like. You felt like you were walking on eggshells."

Bloodworth's claim that workers were so busy that they had to urinate in bottles sparked widespread outrage on social media on Monday.

Bloodworth told The Sun, a news company in the UK, that "workers often didn't take a break to go to the toilet because they were too sparse to get to quickly and they feared punishment for missing productivity targets. So they peed in bottles instead."

"If you're on the top floor, you know it will take five minutes to go the toilet, and all the time you're being admonished for taking too much idle time," Bloodworth said. 

Bloodworth explained how he came across a bottle of urine while searching for items on an upper floor of the warehouse.

"One day I'm walking down the aisle, and I go to pick up an item, and there's a bottle of straw-colored water on the shelf. And at first I thought, 'Oh, what's that?'" he said. "And then it was very obvious what it was. And there was a pool of water next to it. It struck me — it was so obvious why someone would do that."

According to Business Insider, Amazon said that it doesn't time warehouse workers' toilet breaks and that it ensures they can reach the bathrooms easily.

Amazon responded in a statement to Business Insider, saying that “We don't recognize these allegations as an accurate portrayal of activities in our buildings.”

The book can be found on Amazon’s website.

Starbucks closing over 8,000 stores for racial-bias training after controversial arrest

More than 8,000 Starbucks stores will be closed nationwide next month for a one-day training aimed at educating employees about racial bias.

The training was announced after two black men were arrested last week at a Philadelphia Starbucks, raising questions of racial bias and sparking criticism at the store and online.

>> Read more trending news

Company officials said more than 8,000 company-owned Starbucks locations will be closed on the afternoon of May 29 for racial-bias training. Nearly 175,000 employees across the country will receive the training, which will become a regular part of the company’s onboarding process, Starbucks officials said.

Two black men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia last week after an employee called 911 to say the men were trespassing.

>> Related: Starbucks CEO meets with 2 black men arrested in Philadelphia store

Employees told officers the men were denied the use of the coffee shop’s bathroom and refused to leave, police Commissioner Richard Ross said Saturday.

The men were not charged.

The incident gained national attention after video of the arrests appeared on social media.

>> Related: Video showing arrest of two black men at Starbucks sparks outrage

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson apologized to the men in a private meeting with them Monday, a Starbucks spokesperson told CNN. The spokesperson declined to elaborate on what took place during the meeting.

Johnson apologized for the incident in a statement Saturday and pledged to investigate. He said Tuesday that the planned racial-bias training “is just one step in a journey that requires dedication from every level of our company and partnerships in our local community.”

>> Related: Starbucks manager leaves company after controversial arrest of 2 black men

“While this is not limited to Starbucks, we’re committed to being a part of the solution,” he said.

Several national and local experts will help to form the curriculum for the training, Starbucks officials said, including NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill, Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

Company officials said experts will also monitor and review whether the training is effective.

There are more than 28,000 Starbucks stores in 77 countries.

Starbucks CEO meets with 2 black men arrested in Philadelphia store

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson met Monday with two black men who were arrested after an employee at one of the company’s Philadelphia locations called 911 to say they were trespassing, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

A Starbucks spokesperson told CNN that Johnson apologized to the men, who were arrested Thursday at the Starbucks at 18th and Spruce streets. The spokesperson declined to elaborate on what took place during the meeting.

Police arrested the men after employees said they were denied the use of the store’s bathroom and refused to leave, police Commissioner Richard Ross said Saturday. The incident raised questions of racial bias after video of the encounter was posted to social media.

>> Related: Video showing arrest of two black men at Starbucks sparks outrage

Johnson apologized for the incident in a statement Saturday and pledged to investigate. He said Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that hoped to meet with the men, who have not been identified.

"I'd like to have a dialogue with them so that I can ensure that we have opportunity to really understand the situation and show some compassion and empathy for the experience they went through," Johnson said. "Finally, as we're working to solve this, I'd like to invite them to join me in finding a constructive way to solve this issue."

A Starbucks spokesperson told CNN on Monday that the men had agreed to meet with Johnson.

>> Related: Starbucks' CEO wants to apologize 'face-to-face' to 2 black men arrested at Philly store

About two dozen people protested at the Starbucks location Monday morning, standing by the counter and chanting “Starbucks coffee is anti-black,” according to The Associated Press. More than 100 people protested outside the shop Sunday, calling for the manager’s dismissal.

>> Related: Starbucks manager leaves company after controversial arrest of 2 black men

The manager, who was not identified, has left the company, officials said Monday. A company spokeswoman told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the decision was “mutual.”

6 most impressive benefits offered to Amazon employees

As 20 cities strive to become the site of Amazon's next headquarters, aka "HQ2," an important question needs answering: What's in it for potential employees?

After all, HQ2 could bring 50,000 new jobs to the chosen city.

According to business publications like Business Insider and Fairygodboss, those employees would be in good hands.

>> Read more trending news

Though Amazon does not appear on the ranks of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® 2017, it does offer premium benefits and perks to its full-time employees and it would extend the same or similar packages anywhere it chose as a second headquarters.

As its VP of HR John Olsen told Business Insider, the company provides uniform benefits across all levels of employees. "My benefits package is the same as a benefits package here at the fulfillment center," he said. "I think we've got an egalitarian process."

>> Related: 9 best- worst-paying jobs at Amazon

Here are six current Amazon employee perks or benefits:

Top-rate tuition reimbursement. Amazon corporate communications manager Nina Lindsey included this teaser on the full breakdown of Amazon benefits she shared with Business Insider: "Both full-time and part-time hourly employees are eligible for Amazon's innovative Career Choice program that prepays 95 percent of tuition for courses related to in-demand fields, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a future career at Amazon." Amazon even steers students to a few good bets in the future economy, though they don't match the company's hiring profile (at least not yet). "Career Choice allows employees to develop in-demand skills for professions of the future, including medical technicians, paralegals, robotics engineers and solar panel installation professionals," the website enthuses.

Some of those classes might even be held onsite at the HQ2 if the current headquarter continuing education strategy is duplicated.

>> Related: 5 things you didn’t know about Amazon

A "network of support" when it's a jungle out there. According to the Amazon jobs site benefits link (and with the caveat that these benefits apply to full-time employees and may vary by location), company benefits designed to "make life a little bit easier" include an extensive and free, employee assistance program. It provides confidential 24/7 support for multiple aspects of work and personal life. This assistance runs the gamut: from access to financial counseling and estate planning to online assistance with children's developmental disabilities.

Dental and vision insurance for part-timers. According to the Amazon jobs link, employees who work more than 20 hours per week still receive "funding towards medical insurance" and dental and vision insurance with "premiums paid in full by Amazon."

A bias-resistant interview process. Amazon's rating on the women's work website Fairygodboss isn't too rousing: Just 33 percent of its female employees who offered feedback would recommend it to other women. But Amazon did get a glowing review of its ongoing interview process improvements.

>> Related: Amazon announces final 20 cities in the running for second headquarters

"Amazon has even incorporated bias training into their interviewing practices so that every Hiring Manager and Interviewer considers subconscious biases they may have coming into the interview (an example would be women coming across as 'abrasive' in an interview whereas a man would come across as showing backbone)," one woman wrote. 

Enhanced ability to adopt. According to the Amazon jobs page, the company also gives full-time employees help with qualified domestic and international adoption expenses including attorney fees, court costs and travel. The adoption edge at Amazon also includes leave prior to, and following, the birth or adoption of a child. It taps into Amazon's industry unique "Leave Share" option, where an employee can share time off with a spouse or domestic partner whose workplace doesn't offer the option.

Bring your dog to work every day. Really devoted pet parents would adore working at Amazon, at least if HQ2 follows the current headquarters. Fairygodboss describes Amazon as "a dog owner's dream. On any given day, you can find hundreds of dogs roaming the company's campus, where they happily enjoy doggie water fountains, a dog park, and treats at the reception desk."

As solid as the Amazon's job benefits are, Atlanta would do well to also try to draw an Audible outpost for top worker perks. The Amazon-owned company, based in Newark, listed some of these perks for employees during a recent hiring spree, according to Business Insider: In-house gym, Happy Hour on Fridays, tuition assistance, transit reimbursement and a breakfast and juice bar on Mondays.

22 reported illnesses prompt massive egg recall

More than 200 million eggs are part of a recall issued Friday because they have the potential of being contaminated with salmonella, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

>> Read more trending news 

Rose Acre Farms, of Seymour, Indiana, has issued a voluntary recall for 206,749,248 eggs distributed to restaurants and retail stores in the following states: Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, according to the FDA news release.

The eggs that are part of the recall can be identified by the plant number, P-1065, with the Julian date range of 011 through 102 printed on either the side portion or the principal side of the carton or package, according to the FDA.

Twenty-two illnesses have been reported, according to the news release.

The eggs have the potential of being contaminated with salmonella braenderup. The organism can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in vulnerable populations, including young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems, according to the FDA. Symptoms can include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

This is the largest shell egg recall since 2010, Food Safety News reports.

LA police seize $700,000 worth of counterfeit cosmetics

Police seized $700,000 worth of counterfeit cosmetics after raiding 21 locations in Los Angeles’ Fashion District, KABC reported.

>> Read more trending news

Los Angeles police Capt. Marc Reina announced the results of the operation Thursday evening on Twitter, adding that the bogus cosmetics were "found to contain bacteria and human waste."

"The best price is not always the best deal!" Reina wrote.

The confiscated products included makeup similar to popular brands such as MAC, NARS, Urban Decay and Kylie Cosmetics, KABC reported.

The investigation began after customers called to complain about the bumps and rashes from the products, the television station reported.

The police department’s Anti-Piracy Unit did undercover buys in order to get the products tested, Detective Rick Ishitani said.

"They came back positive with a high level of bacterias and animal feces," Ishitani told KABC reported.

Out of the 21 businesses raided and cited, six of the owners were arrested while the rest received cease-and-desist orders, KABC reported.

Wawa Day: Get free coffee on chain's 54th anniversary today

Want some free coffee? If you live near a Wawa convenience store, you can get a complimentary caffeine fix on "Wawa Day," a celebration of the chain's 54th anniversary.

>> RELATED STORY: Ben & Jerry's is giving away free ice cream Tuesday

According to a Wawa news release, customers can get "free cups of any-size coffee" Thursday at any of the company's 790-plus stores in Pennsylvania; Florida; Washington, D.C.; New Jersey; Delaware; Maryland; and Virginia.

Wawa "expects to give away 2 million free cups" of java throughout the day, the company said.

>> Read more trending news 

The press release continued: "In April of 2014, Wawa celebrated its 50th anniversary in convenience retailing and marked the milestone with the first Wawa Day event and the launch of The Wawa Foundation, a 501c(3) non-profit organization founded to encompass most of Wawa's charitable giving. At its inception, Wawa and The Wawa Foundation set a goal to donate $50 million to causes supporting health, hunger and everyday heroes by 2018. During its 2018 Wawa Day celebration, Wawa and The Wawa Foundation are pleased to announce that they have met this goal as of early 2018, and over the past four years have donated $50 million to causes surrounding health, hunger and heroes throughout Wawa’s operating area."

Read more here.

FTC says those ‘warranty void if removed’ stickers are illegal

The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday that it had sent letters to six major companies informing them that the “warranty void if removed” stickers on specified parts aren’t just meaningless, they are also illegal.

>> Read more trending news 

Under the 1975 Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, companies cannot place repair limits on warranties “unless warrantors provide the parts or services for free or receive a waiver from the FTC.”

“Provisions that tie warranty coverage to the use of particular products or services harm both consumers who pay more for them as well as the small businesses who offer competing products and services,” Thomas B. Pahl, acting director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said.

Related: This Facebook tool reveals whether Cambridge Analytica has your data

The major companies it contacted market and sell cellular devices, automobiles or video gaming systems in the United States -- products that commonly feature the warning stickers. In fact, both the Playstation 4 and Xbox One video game consoles come with the stickers.

Here are some examples of service claims that violate the 1975 law, according to the FTC:

  • The use of (company name) parts is required to keep your … manufacturer’s warranties and any extended warranties intact.
  • This warranty shall not apply if this product … is used with products not sold or licensed by (company name).
  • This warranty does not apply if this product … has had the warranty seal on the (product) altered, defaced, or removed.

The agency said it has asked the contacted companies to review their warranty notices and ensure that they don’t “state or imply that warranty coverage is conditioned on the use of specific parts of services.”

Related: Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal affected up to 87M Facebook users, company says

Officials will then review the companies' websites after 30 days, and inform them that “failure to correct any potential violations may result in law enforcement action.”

Read the full announcement at the FTC website.

Bank of America to stop financing makers of military-style guns

Bank of America plans to stop lending to companies that make military-style firearms for civilian use nearly two months after a shooting at a Florida high school left 17 people dead, a company executive told Bloomberg Television on Tuesday.

>> Read more trending news

“It’s our intention not to finance these military-style firearms for civilian use,” Anne Finucane, a vice chairman at Bank of America, told Bloomberg. “We want to contribute in any way we can to reduce these mass shootings.”

Finucane said Bank of America works with “just a handful” of gun manufacturers and that reactions to the bank’s decision have been “mixed.”

“There are those that will reduce their portfolios, and we’ll work with them, and others that will do something else,” she told the news station.

>> Related: Parkland shooting: Anthony Borges, final survivor of shooting, released from hospital

The decision makes the bank the second to announce changes in how it deals with gun-industry clients in the wake of the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to Reuters. Citigroup officials announced last month that the bank would bar business customers from selling to buyers without running background checks first and from selling bump stocks or high-capacity magazines, among other restrictions.

>> Related: Kroger raises gun buying age to 21 at its Fred Meyer stores, report says

Several businesses also announced policy changes amid a renewed national gun debate sparked by the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High. Officials said the gunman behind that attack legally bought the AR-15 rifle he used to gun down students and staff members at his former alma mater.

>> Related: Dick’s Sporting Goods to stop selling assault-style rifles

Officials with supermarket chain Kroger announced earlier this year that it would no longer sell firearms at any of its 43 Freed Meyer stores in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The company previously sold assault-style rifles in three states – Oregon, Washington and Idaho – but stopped several years ago, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Dick's Sporting Goods, one of the nation's largest sports retailers, halted its sales of assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines after the shooting. The company also raised its minimum gun purchase age to 21.

>> Related: Walmart raising age to buy guns to 21 after Florida high school shooting

Retail giant Walmart, one of the nation's largest sellers of guns and ammunition, also raised the minimum age to buy firearms in its stores to 21. The retailer had stopped selling assault-style rifles in 2015, according to officials.

Nine West files for bankruptcy

Nine West Holdings Inc., a footwear, accessories, women’s apparel and jeanswear company, has filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, company officials announced Friday.

>> Read more trending news

The company has a portfolio of brands that includes Nine West, Anne Klein and Gloria Vanderbilt. In a release late last week, officials said the company filed its bankruptcy paperwork “to facilitate the sale of its Nine West and Bandolino footwear and handbag business and to right-size its capital structure around its profitable and growing businesses, including One Jeanswear Group, The Jewelry Group, the Kasper Group, and Anne Klein.”

With the restructuring, the company said it received $300 million in debtor-in-possession financing and has entered into a “restructuring support agreement” with parties that hold or control over 78 percent of its secured term debt and over 89 percent of its unsecured term debt.

“Such financing, combined with cash generated from the company’s operations, will provide the company with the liquidity necessary to maintain its operations in the ordinary course during its Chapter 11 case,” company officials said.

Nine West officials also said the agreement “demonstrates the support of the company’s lenders and their confidence in the go-forward businesses, as well as providing a clear path to emergence from Chapter 11.”

Company officials said they will seek to sell the Nine West and Bandolino footwear and handbag businesses. Officials said the company has entered into a “stalking horse” asset purchase agreement with Authentic Brands Group, and that the sale will be subject to a competitive sale process.

The future focus of the company will be on its “profitable” One Jeanswear Group, The Jewelry Group, the Kasper Group, and Anne Klein businesses during the bankruptcy process.

The company is saddled with about $1.4 billion in debt, according to media reports.

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