Amazon warehouse workers in New York will strike after an employee tested positive for coronavirus
Ben Gilbert/Business Insider
- Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island plan to strike on Monday.
- They will protest the company's health and safety policies after a colleague tested positive for coronavirus.
- The strikers are demanding Amazon shut down the facility for a deep clean and pay its workers in the meantime.
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Close on 100 Amazon workers are planning to walk out of a Staten Island on Monday in protest of the company's policies on coronavirus.
Chris Smalls, a management assistant in the warehouse and lead organizer of the strike, told CNBC that the strikers had become concerned after a colleague was diagnosed with COVID-19 last week. He said the strikers will not return to work until their demands - that Amazon shut down the warehouse for extra cleaning and give workers paid time off while it does so - are met.
"Since the building won't close by itself, we're going to have to force [Amazon's] hand," said Smalls. "We will not return until the building gets sanitized," he added.
Smalls said that communication about which workers are in quarantine is poor. He himself is in quarantine as he came into contact with the worker who tested positive, and he said that only "a select few of the general managers," as well as people who worked on the same side of the building as the infected worker were informed of the diagnosis.
An Amazon spokeswoman told Business Insider that Smalls was "alleging many misleading things."
She claimed Smalls' comments on Amazon's enhanced cleaning and sanitation measures, and his remarks about "leave options" were not correct but did not give further detail. She noted that Smalls was at home on full pay while on quarantine.
"Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable. We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available, and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances," she added.
Another anonymous worker from the Staten Island warehouse told CNBC that gloves were being rationed to only two pairs per week.
As the coronavirus pandemic has continued to swell, Amazon has had to balance the health of its warehouse workers against the sudden surge in demand for home deliveries. The company brought in new policies including a 3-feet distancing rule, getting rid of security checks, and distributing hand sanitizer and antibacterial spray throughout its warehouses.
Some workers feel the measures are inadequate however, as the warehouses still mean packing thousands of employees into an enclosed space. Workers told Business Insider that the sanitation materials often run out, and are sometimes stolen.
Amazon has now had workers test positive for coronavirus in at least 13 US warehouses. In some cases, the company has temporarily shut down the facility for a deep clean, and last week for the first time it shut down a facility in Shepherdsville, Kentucky indefinitely.
Commenting on the Staten Island walkout, Stuart Applebaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) said: "All employers need to prioritize the health and safety of their workforce at this time. Unfortunately, Amazon appears to be prioritizing maximizing its enormous profits even over its employees' safety - and that is unacceptable."
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