300 Amazon warehouse employees refuse to work amid coronavirus-safety worries


Hundreds of Amazon warehouse staffers are staying home on Tuesday in protest of their work conditions during the coronavirus pandemic, according to labor groups.

Some 300 workers across more than 40 Amazon facilities in California, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and New York, among other states, signed a pledge to not work on Tuesday, Zachary Lerner, a labor organizer with New York Communities for Change, one of the groups spearheading the movement, told The Post. The workers will take unpaid time off, alerting Amazon via the company’s app, Lerner added.

Amazon disputed the figures.

“Reports of employee participation in today’s event organized by labor unions are grossly exaggerated. What’s true is that masks, temperature checks, hand sanitizer, increased time off, increased pay, and more are standard across our network because we care deeply about the health and safety of our employees,” said Amazon spokesperson Rachael Lighty.

Protesting employees are demanding that Amazon, which only began providing its warehouse staffers face masks in April, close their warehouses for a thorough cleaning and give workers paid time off during the closures, among other safety protocols they say are lacking in the sprawling facilities.

At least 130 of Amazon’s warehouse workers have contracted the coronavirus thus far, according to the pledge.

Workers are also asking for time and a half for “hazard pay.” Amazon is currently paying its hourly workers $2 extra an hour during the pandemic.

“Today is the launch of this pledge. It’s just the beginning,” said Lerner, who says the pledge has only been available in the past 48 hours.

Amazon employed nearly 800,000 full-time and part-time employees as of the end of 2019, including 125,000 warehouse workers in North America. It has boosted its warehouse more recently, however, as the pandemic has dramatically lifted demand for home delivery.

Tuesday’s protest marks the latest sign of unrest among Amazon’s warehouse workers since COVID-19 lockdowns began in March, including staff walkouts at Amazon’s JFK8 facility on Staten Island and three other warehouses over the past month.

Following an outcry from workers, labor leaders and public officials, Amazon on April 2 said it would start giving warehouse workers face masks and take workers’ temperatures before they start their shifts. A week later, Amazon posted a video of its billionaire founder Jeff Bezos visiting an Amazon warehouse and Whole Foods supermarket, greeting employees and thanking them for their hard work.

But some critics still say the company has not gone far enough.

“Amazon continues to prioritize maximizing its enormous profits even over its employees’ safety — and that is unacceptable,” Stuart Applebaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said in a statement. “No worker should be subjected to unsafe conditions at work. And no worker should be retaliated against for standing up for their rights.”

Earlier this month, Amazon fired a Staten Island manager, Christian Smalls, who led a protest at that facility. New York Attorney General Letitia James called for an investigation into the firing.

[Read More…]