A growing coalition of workers and government officials is putting pressure on Amazon to reform its COVID-19 policies ahead of the biggest labor organizing day of the year.
The latest: Workers at Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, Walmart, Target, FedEx are planning to strike on May 1 by calling in sick or walking off the job, according to The Intercept. Organizers of the May Day protest say there are COVID-19 outbreaks in at least 125 of Amazon’s 175 worldwide fulfillment centers. They’re calling for full transparency from the company about the outbreaks and compensation for all unpaid time off since March.
Pressure from above: Amazon is under pressure from grassroots organizers and elected officials over its handling of the coronavirus crisis. New York Attorney General Letitia James is investigating conditions inside Amazon warehouses and said the inquiry is raising “concerns that Amazon’s health and safety measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are so inadequate that they may violate several provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act” in a letter to the company obtained by NPR. Her concerns echo comments from Sen. Bernie Sanders and local elected officials in Amazon’s home state, Washington. In France, Amazon has closed six warehouses after a judge ordered the company to stop delivering non-essential items to protect workers.
What Amazon says: Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski said the organizers of the May Day strike are “spreading misinformation and making false claims about Amazon during this unprecedented health and economic crisis,” in a statement.
“What’s true is that masks, temperature checks, hand sanitizer, increased time off, increased pay, and more are standard across our Amazon and Whole Food Market networks already,” she said. “Our employees are doing incredible work for their communities every day, and we have invested heavily in their health and safety through increased safety measures and the procurement of millions of safety supplies and have invested nearly $700 million in increased pay.”
Amazon says it has implemented 150 process changes and is going to “extreme measures” to protect employees and compensate them for working through the crisis.
Stoking the fire:?Amazon has fired a handful of warehouse workers and tech employees over the past few weeks, citing various reasons. Two user experience designers at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters were fired for repeatedly speaking out about Amazon’s environmental policies and conditions inside warehouses. Amazon said that a fulfillment center employee who is now helping to organize the May Day demonstration was fired for breaking a company-enforced quarantine. The two tech workers held a virtual walkout last week to protest the firings and call attention to Amazon’s coronavirus response.
Big picture: Despite mounting criticism, the pandemic has been a boon to Amazon’s business. Amazon stock reached an all-time high this month as thousands of people around the world turn to the company to avoid exposure to the virus at traditional stores. It isn’t clear whether the concerns raised by activists and politicians will impact Amazon’s most important audience: its customers. The company reports quarterly earnings Thursday afternoon.