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After multiple employees tested positive for COVID-19, Amazon workers walked out of a Staten Island warehouse on Monday demanding that the company take better safety precautions amid the pandemic.
“If a building tests positive you should shut it down and sanitize it,” Christian Smalls, the organizer of the walkout, told FOX Business. “That’s all we’re asking for. … If we don’t get a response today, then we’re going to City Hall.”
Smalls also called on the company to grant retroactive paychecks to employees who took time off in fear of contracting the virus. “People are afraid to work. People are there working and they’re putting their lives at risk because there are a number of (coronavirus) cases that they are not aware of,” he told ABC News.
Smalls was reportedly placed in quarantine by Amazon this past Saturday after he came in contact with another employee who tested positive for the virus. He also claimed that Amazon lied when it said that only one worker at the Staten Island warehouse was infected. In fact, as many as seven people may have been infected at a facility employing over 4,000.
“That’s a bold face lie because I sent home the third case directly,” Smalls said.
Regarding the first case of the virus, Smalls added, “She already had time to spread it. Her friend caught it. Her friend was the third case. She tested positive and she’s a supervisor in the pack department and the pack department is right before the items go out door to the customers. It’s dangerous.”
According to Smalls, up to 50 to 100 people planned to walk off the job demanding better safety measures.
— New York Communities for Change (@nychange) March 30, 2020
In a statement, Amazon hailed its employees as “heroes” working to keep America stable, adding that the company has taken necessary precautions to ensure their safety.
“These accusations are simply unfounded. Our employees are heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items they need in this crisis,” the statement said. “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. The truth is the vast majority of employees continue to show up and do the heroic work of delivering for customers every day.”
Amazon will be raising the wages at the warehouse from $17.50 to $23 while paying double overtime to those who show up to work. The company will also be offering extended leave to those staying home in fear of contracting the virus. Beyond Amazon, Instacart employees likewise walked off the job on Monday. From FOX Business:
In a Medium post published Friday, Instacart workers asked for proper protection — including hand sanitizer and wipes — hazard pay of $5 for each order and an extension of benefits to workers affected by the virus.
Instacart said Sunday it would soon provide workers with a new hand sanitizer upon request and outlined changes to its tip system. The group said the measures were too little too late.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) expressed his support for the Amazon workers on Monday.
“Amazon [and] Instacart must take care of their workers, especially now,” Booker tweeted. “I’ve written to Amazon asking exactly how they plan to. I stand with these workers in their strike.”