Common Dreams - March 30, 2020

Labor rights advocates on Monday urged the public to show support and solidarity with Amazon employees who walked off the job at a Staten Island warehouse following what the workers said was an unacceptable response by the company to at least one case of coronavirus at the facility.

Between 50 and 200 employees at the warehouse, known as JFK8, walked off the job around 12:30 pm Monday, days after at least one case of coronavirus was reported at the facility. Christian Smalls, an employee who is organizing the strike, told CNN the number of employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, is actually between five and seven, though the company has only acknowledged one infection.

The workers are demanding that Amazon shut the warehouse down and ensure it is sanitized before requiring employees to work again.

 "We're not asking for much," Smalls said. "We're asking the building to be closed and sanitized, and for us to be paid [during that process]."

By ignoring the threat of transmission to other workers, tweeted the grassroots group New York Communities for Change, "Amazon is putting profits over safety."

Amazon is allowing contract workers to apply for sick pay if they test positive for the coronavirus or need to self-quarantine due to exposure, but the company is not providing them with paid sick leave as a matter of policy. Employees who are able to get tested are required to report for work while they wait for their results—a process which can take days and thus could be exposing the warehouse's 5,000 workers, and anyone they interact with outside of work, to COVID-19.

Amazon facilities have quickly become "breeding grounds for this pandemic," Smalls said. As of Monday, the virus has infected more than 144,000 people in the U.S.—the most of any country in the world—including more than 60,000 in New York State. 

"We know we're not alone at JFK8 and that conditions are similar in Amazon facilities everywhere," Phillip Ruiz, a warehouse employee, told New York Communities for Change. "Amazon's actions do not match their statements that they are prioritizing our health or the health of the public." ...
Read full report at Common Dreams