After Amazon confirmed an employee at a fulfillment center in New York City is the first hourly employee to test positive for coronavirus, warehouse workers say the ecommerce giant is not doing enough to protect them as they risk their health to fulfill online orders.
In an interview earlier this week with Adweek, Monica Moody, who works as a packer at an Amazon warehouse in Concord, N.C., said Amazon can and should do more, such as establishing paid sick leave and making a recent $2 per hour raise permanent. (The recent uptick in orders as people self-quaratine prompted Amazon to hire 100,000 temporary workers across the country and to offer existing workers an additional $2 per hour through April.)
By keeping facilities open, Moody said Amazon is risking workers’ health. She is a member of United for Respect, a nonprofit advocating for policy changes to improve the lives of retail workers.
“The people who live paycheck-to-paycheck can’t afford time off—why risk those people who are busting their behinds just to provide for their families when you have the money to shut down for a little while and get a deep clean and pay us while you do that?” Moody asked. “We only get paid every two weeks—you can pay that. We work hard enough—you can do it.”
While Amazon has talked about “enhanced and frequent cleaning,” Moody said she has only seen the regular janitors at her warehouse, along with Purell in the break room and Lysol wipes at their desks. “They’re basically leaving it for us to do—they’re not doing it,” she said.
In addition, she said that while Amazon has told employees what kind of mask is appropriate to wear, it is not providing those masks.
“Since the early days of this situation, we have worked closely with local authorities to proactively respond, ensuring we continue to serve customers while taking care of our associates, and we’re following all guidelines from local officials about the operations of our buildings,” Amazon said in a statement. “Based on guidance from the CDC, the World Health Organization and the Surgeon General, there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is being spread through packages.”
Amazon noted that any employee diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine will receive up to two weeks of pay, and hourly employees have unlimited unpaid time off through the end of March.
The platform also listed the preventative measures it has taken to date, including: increased cleaning and regular sanitization of door handles, stairway handrails, elevator buttons, lockers and touchscreens; staggered start times and break times to promote social distancing; and cell phone access for employees who need to be in touch with their families or childcare providers.
Amazonians United New York City, which describes itself as a group of logistics workers, tweeted about shutting down Amazon’s affected facility in Queens for a night “to protect each other and our communities from #coronavirus and Amazon’s greed.” (An Amazon spokesperson said it was temporarily closed for “additional sanitation,” but has since reopened.)
The organization is also circulating a petition asking Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to enact additional protective measures, including: paid sick leave regardless of diagnosis or quarantine; childcare pay and subsidies beyond its $25 million Hardship Fund to help workers impacted by school closures; time-and-a-half pay for employees who have to work on-site; the end of rate-based quotas so employees can sanitize their packages and work stations without fear of missing a productivity requirement; and the shutdown of facilities where employees test positive, with pay while the warehouse is sterilized and workers are tested.
Amazonians United did not respond to a request for comment. However, in the petition, it said the additional pay for workers comes as Amazon raises productivity quotas despite increased workloads.
The Atlantic reported the petition has been signed by more than 1,500 people.