A group of Amazon employees, fresh from last year’s strikes for climate action, are now extending their fight to demand stronger COVID-19 protections for their fellow fulfilment centre and warehouse workers.
“The country is grinding to a halt, but Amazon warehouses are still churning out packages at a breakneck pace,” writes Grist. To date, 19 facilities belonging to the online shopping behemoth have been hit by coronavirus. (Update April 6: The total is now more than 50.)
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And while Amazon employees have been ordered to abide by new safety protocols, “masks and other protective equipment are in short supply, and the cramped nature of many of those facilities doesn’t allow for effective social distancing.”
Moreover, Amazon is offering paid sick leave only to “employees who have been put into quarantine or have tested positive for coronavirus.” Those who fall sick due to the sheer exhaustion of trying “keep up with a surge in demand from Americans ordering stuff from the confines of their homes” are out of luck.
Such unfair, and dangerous, working conditions have raised the ire of the Amazon employees who risked their livelihoods to found Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, which, last year, very publicly criticized CEO Jeff Bezos’s climate stance as insufficient.
Asking the question “how can we be essential workers when our lives are not essential?”, and determined to raise awareness of the plight of Amazon workers as the pandemic drags on, the group is organizing strikes and digital protests. By last Wednesday, notes Grist, “more than 5,000 Amazon corporate and tech workers had signed an open letter to Bezos calling for better protections for workers,” including “paid sick leave regardless of COVID-19 diagnosis,” hazard pay, subsidies for ill workers, and child care supports.