9 Horrifying Workplace Conditions You Won’t Believe Are in the United States

1Amazon.com Warehouse Workers in Stifling Heat Face Painful Static Shocks Daily

We all think of Amazon.com as the friendly Web store where we buy books, 3 Wolf Moon T-shirts, and more. It turns out, every time you click BUY, you are unleashing a torrent of pain on their warehouse workers. In a scathing report from investigative magazine Mother Jones, an undercover warehouse worker at a company that ships for Amazon was forced to work 12 hour days, sometimes in 100+ degree heat. In addition, she had to constantly run from shelving unit to shelving unit, bending, squatting, and craning to reach items – workers were penalized if they didn't make unrealistic goals per shift. Every time she touched the metal shelf, a painful electrostatic shock would pulse through her. Other reports include workers regularly being carried out on stretchers, and denied overtime or sick pay. Amazon announced after these reports that they would be adding AC to “some” of their warehouses.

2Foreign Student Hell at Hershey's Guest Worker Program

Students coming from abroad to study or work in America have hopes they will be treated well and learn about the wonders of our Capitalist system. Not so for these students from China, Nigeria, Romania and Ukraine who came on a State Department-sponsored work visa to work at Hershey's, the famed chocolate manufacturer. Little did they know they were in for worse treatment than any Oompa Loompa. Many were forced to work the night shift, standing and lifting for long hours, and threatened if they did not work fast enough. Not only did some of them pay thousands of dollars to come to the US, students were also docked rent and other fees from their meager paychecks; some would receive less than $200 a week. In a show of protest and to raise awareness of their plight, hundreds of students picketed the Hershey's plant, calling for an end to these abusive practices.

3Wal-Mart Denys Overtime, Locks in Workers Overnight

Wal-Mart, one of the largest employers in the United States and elsewhere, has long been plagued by allegations of worker abuse. In 2004, workers described being locked in overnight at Sam's Club, a Wal-Mart subsidiary, for “security purposes;” one worker's ankle was crushed and it took over an hour to get the doors unlocked. However, the complaints continue. In 2012, Wal-Mart warehouse workers in Illinois went on strike for 21 days to protest unfair wages, unsafe conditions, as well as race and sex discrimination and lack of benefits. This was part of a larger action in California against the chain. Wal-Mart continues to both deny wrongdoings and pledge better treatment of their workers. The strikers in Illinois returned to work and were reimbursed for their 21-day walkout.

4T-Mobile Employees Forced to Wear Dunce Caps

T-Mobile has a dirty little secret hiding behind their beautiful model Catherine Zeta Jones: harassment of their employees. The US subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom “exercises brutal psychological terror against its employees” according to a recent report. It says call center employees are regularly intimidated into handling unreasonable call volumes and sales goals. On such center in Chattanooga, Tennessee forced low-performing employees to wear a dunce cap while they worked. Other employees speak of having to write take-home essays on why they should continue to be employed by T-Mobile.

5Fishing: The Most Dangerous Job is Also The Lowest Paying

The Fishing Industry continues to have the most dangerous jobs in America – a position it has held since 1992. Every part of the job is perilous, from fishing on the open seas to working grueling hours in the unsafe canneries. So much so that the Grim Reaper takes an average of 116 souls per 100,000 fisherman yearly. Worst of all, the average salary is $25,590, just barely above the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four.

6Fast Food Employees Strike for Fair Wages, End Discrimination

The Fast Food Empire grosses over $200 billion annually, yet very little of that money sees its way to the average burger flipper. In December of 2012, there was a wave of protests against McDonald's, much like the ones against Wal-Mart earlier that year. While CEOs reap millions, the majority of their workers don't have any paid sick days, and over half lack health coverage. Over one quarter of them are on Medicaid and 86% of them live in poverty.

7US Prison Laborers Exploited, Taking Jobs from Working Class

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” – US Constitution's Thirteenth Amendment

While most rightfully hail the passage of the 13th Amendment against slavery as a milestone in Human Rights, the darker side is that it also institutionalized prison labor. With the US prison population booming at over 2.2 million, there is plenty of free labor to help exploit, er, “rehabilitate” inmates. According to reports, inmates are paid literally pennies an hour and even women are forced to do back breaking labor. However, not only do the corporations reap profits from the use of prison workers, the US taxpayer is still essentially footing the bill for their food and housing.

8US Migrant Workers Face Inhuman Conditions

The US was built upon the backs of immigrant labor. Nowadays it's no different, as the Irish and Italians have been replaced for the most part with Latino immigrants who also come to America to seek a better life. These workers are vital to picking crops and doing hard manual labor for pennies. Some claim these people are stealing jobs from “legitimate” citizens, but the labor-intensive farm work is so harrowing that a recent report by The Michigan Civil Rights Commission painted the life of the migrant farm worker as working in “unconscionable” conditions by rarely having access to a bathroom or clean water, among other atrocities. The labor camps where they live suffer from overcrowding and squalid conditions that include lack of plumbing and exposed wires. “This is a report about human dignity,” the Commission said.

9“Super Bowl” of Slavery in the US, Some Work for Military

Wait... the trophy is for WHAT?!

If you think the 13th Amendment did indeed abolish slavery, think again. Not only is the Super Bowl considered the largest human trafficking event in the world, even companies associated with the US military have been caught using indentured servants. An article in the New Yorker told a harrowing tale of foreigners being lured to Iraq to work for US military contractors and being promised good paying jobs, but ending up living in barbed-wire compounds and being forced to work as cooks or cleaners while being sexually assaulted and abused regularly.