Earlier this week, employees at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, were told that an employee at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Then they went back to work.
“After they told us, the building just went the way it was,” said Terrell Worm, an Amazon worker in Staten Island and a member of Make the Road New York, an activist group. “It̵
Amazon workers are at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic, helping to deliver food and necessities to millions of home-bound Americans. Company founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who richest man on earth said he’ll do it everything He can protect his employees.
But the workers don’t feel that way. “It’s annoying to see Amazon executives say they protect workers,” a New England driver told HuffPost, asking for anonymity to protect their jobs.
At least 10 warehouse workers at Amazon said COVID-19 was diagnosed on Thursday public reports. Employees say a lot more are likely to be sick. The company does not publish any cases. News of cases was filtered out about warehouse workers. The company currently has one Warehouse in Kentucky because of the outbreak only after employees protested because three workers tested positive for coronavirus.
Warehouse workers and deliverers say they lack protective equipment such as goggles, masks and gloves. And that they don’t have enough disinfectants to wipe their jobs and work closely together – despite the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommend social distance. The workload is now breathtaking.
“It is very dangerous and scary. I’m afraid for my own safety and the safety of my own community, ”said Monica Moody, who works in an Amazon warehouse in Concord, North Carolina, near Charlotte, and spoke to workers and activists on Tuesday when she called 911 the next time .
Amazon lets us choose whether to come to work or take the risk of losing wages.
Monica Moody, warehouse worker at Amazon
The workers are still gathering in groups of 10 or more, she said. And there are rumors that colleagues have tested positive for COVID-19.
“We’re all freaked out,” said Moody, a member of United for Respect, which works for retail workers. “Amazon lets us choose whether we come to work or run the risk of losing wages.”
The pressure is great to keep working – longer hours and higher speeds. And while Amazon has introduced a number of measures to deal with the pandemic, there are two guidelines that really tell the story: The company offers unlimited possibilities unpaid Leave it to anyone who doesn’t want to risk getting to work. In the meantime, workers who come in earn $ 2 more per hour and are paid twice for overtime.
It is a difficult decision. “You either get a lot of money or you sit at home worrying about the bills,” said Jana Jumpp, a member of United for Respect, who works at an Amazon fulfillment center in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and spoke on Wednesday the call. “The only choice we have is to take the day off without pay or to be exposed to this virus.”
Some of her colleagues aren’t that worried, she said. “I had people say,” I don’t care if I’m sick, I want to get the money, “she added.
Jumpp is 58 years old and has loved working at Amazon until recently, she said. Now she is taking unpaid time.
“I’m afraid to go back,” she said. “There is nowhere near enough protection in our facility. People are not given hand disinfectants, towels or masks. “
“They push us and push us”
The situation also appears to be under immense pressure on the company’s army of contract workers, including the fleet of drivers who are either independent contractors or work for small local businesses that manage fleets of vans and cars that deliver packages.
“We are not a social distancing,” said the New England driver who works for a contractor and spoke to HuffPost last week.
The drivers crowd into a group in the morning before setting off for the day. You will not receive disinfectant wipes or protective equipment to be safe on the street. And as business is currently growing, drivers are being urged to deliver packages as quickly as possible.
“We are being pushed very hard to drive our routes. As many as we can. I mean they push us and push us,” said the driver, adding that there is no time to stop or even eat for bathroom breaks .
And although this driver was able to buy some disinfectant wipes, there is no time to try to keep the packages clean. “I’m trying to wipe the van and wipe my hands, but we can’t sit there and wipe packages.”
What happens when a worker gets sick?
If an employee in a warehouse tests positive, the facility staff will be informed of the situation, an Amazon spokesman told HuffPost. But employees often hear rumors.
Stephanie Haynes, a member of United for Respect, who works in a warehouse in Joliet, Illinois, said that after hearing that an employee had tested positive for COVID-19, she and some colleagues, a personnel manager in their warehouse would have faced. They were told to go back to work and Amazon had checked the cameras to see who was working near that person.
“We didn’t find out because Amazon told us,” she said, adding that she had worked with this woman. “Someone else who worked with her came and said something.”
According to Amazon, the policy is to send everyone home who works closely with an infected person. Haynes was not told to go home.
“I have allergy asthma. I have family at home. I have children at home. My fiance has diabetes, ”she said when calling on Wednesday. “Many people want to go home, but they have bills that they want to pay. … Amazon needs to do a lot more to protect us. “
In a statement, Amazon admitted that an employee in Joliet tested positive. “We support the person who is recovering. We follow the guidelines of local officials and take extreme measures to ensure the safety of employees at our site, ”the statement said.
The worker who tested positive was last at the facility a week ago, the company said. Anyone in close contact was asked to stay at home for 14 days with payment.
Amazon said it doesn’t make cases public.
“Amazon’s paid sick leave is a joke”
According to Amazon’s COVID-19 sick leave policy, workers receive 14 days of paid sick leave when diagnosed or quarantined. But that leaves out the flood of workers who are immunodeficient and at risk according to CDC guidelines. The many, many sick workers who cannot be tested for coronavirus are also left out.
Companies with similar policies have been heavily criticized for their limitations.
Employees who are unable to apply the Emergency Policy may take the paid sick leave they earned while working for the company. However, many say that they haven’t saved up enough hours to take a meaningful break.
“Amazon’s paid sick leave is a joke, ”said Jumpp.
The company needs to introduce a real general sick leave, said Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) In a letter to Bezos last weekend.
“I am encouraged that you have recognized the importance of paid sick leave during the current crisis,” she writes. “However, I am concerned that, due to gaps in these guidelines, many workers are unable to take the best medical advice when they are sick and are putting themselves, their colleagues and their communities at higher risk.”
Warren is pushing for universal paid sick leave for all workers that goes beyond Amazon’s offerings. Congress has failed to provide Amazon workers with some form of sick leave. A provision passed last week in the Coronavirus Emergency Act guarantees workers in companies with fewer than 500 employees only paid sick leave.
“This is not your usual business”
“Much of the essential work that we do cannot be done from home,” said Bezos in one letter to workers earlier this week who acknowledge the difficulties in the situation. He assured employees that their safety was his primary concern, while recognizing the scale of the crisis and the role Amazon was playing.
“This is not a normal business and it is a time of great stress and insecurity. It is also a time when the work we do is most critical,” he said.
The company is now prioritizing important goods – food, cleaning products – over other goods.
Bezos tried to assure the workers that he was thinking about their safety.
“We have implemented a number of preventive health measures for employees and contractors at our locations around the world – from increasing the frequency and intensity of cleaning to adapting our practices in fulfillment centers to ensure the recommended guidelines for social distance. We meet every day to find other ways to improve these measures, ”he said.
This is not a normal business and it is a time of great stress and uncertainty. It is also a moment when the work we do is most critical.
Jeff Bezos in a letter to Amazon employees
The lack of a mask is a well-known problem, writes Bezos. But, he says, medical workers come first. “If we choose masks, it will be our top priority to put them in the hands of our employees and partners who are working to provide important products to people,” the letter said.
He points out that the company plans to hire 100,000 more people to cope with the crisis.
A spokesman stressed that corporate policies are evolving along with the public health crisis.
The epidemic is clearly a breakout moment for Amazon. Workers say that the level of work at the moment is similar to the Christmas frenzy. And they also understand that they are currently performing a clearly essential service that enables much of the country to seek protection and slow the spread of the virus.
Still, employees say Amazon needs to do more. Not only do they need more protective gear, they also say that Amazon should proactively check working temperatures before starting work, and that the camps should be closed for cleaning after an outbreak. They also really want paid sick leave.
At this point, many workers were no longer in the camps.
Worm, who works on Staten Island, says employees from all five counties come to work for their shifts and travel through a city that is experiencing a heartbreaking number of cases and deaths and potentially spreads disease. For the good of the city and the country, he believes the company should only close the facility where it works: “This is New York City. This is the epicenter. We are at the epicenter of this virus and they don’t take it seriously. “
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