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Under pressure, afraid to take bathroom breaks. Inside Amazon warehouse

Amazon Bathroom BreaksWorking at an Amazon warehouse in the U.K., James Bloodworth came across a bottle of straw-colored liquid on a shelf. It looked like pee.

How could he be sure? “I smelt it,” said the 35-year-old British journalist and author, talking about his new book “Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain.” It was definitely pee, he said.

As he tells it, urinating into a bottle is the kind of desperation Amazon forces its warehouse workers into as they try to avoid accusations of “idling” and failing to meet impossibly high productivity targets — ones they are continually measured against by Big Brother-ish type surveillance.

It didn’t help that the nearest bathroom to where he worked was four flights of stairs below.

Bloodworth’s grim picture of Amazon’s blue-collar workplaces — he compares the warehouse he worked in, alternately, to a prison and a totalitarian state — is bringing new attention to the company’s treatment of its workers. Out in the U.K. since March, and just appearing in this country, “Hired” sparked a flurry of reviews in the British press and some American coverage as well.

Adding to concerns that have festered for years, Bloodworth’s depiction arises as the company rapidly expands its warehouse operation, where workers store, pack and ship the items customers order online. Amazon last year said it employed 125,000 full-time workers in the U.S., 38 percent more than a year ago.

The company has not released worldwide employment figures, but said it has 175 “fulfillment centers,” as it calls its massive warehouses where goods come in and out, and 35 smaller “sortation centers” that finish off the delivery process.

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