Amazon warehouse workers are walking out and Whole Foods workers are striking

Daniel Fowler
March 30, 2020

According to a recent report, two hundred Amazon workers plan to walk out of the company's New York City warehouse where seven workers have fallen sick with the Chinese virus in protest of poor safety measures.

Amazon will begin screening employee temperatures at warehouses in NY and Seattle this week amid growing unrest about workers' exposure to COVID-19.

Chris Smalls, a warehouse management assistant and a lead organizer of the strike, told CNBC that workers are demanding that the Staten Island facility be shut down and sanitized in light of the positive diagnosis, and that workers receive paid time off while the deep clean occurs.

"We had been asking for hand sanitizer for many, many weeks".

"There are positive cases working in these buildings infecting thousands", Christian Smalls wrote on Twitter, including videos from the warehouse depicting what he said were inadequate safety measures.

At Amazon, which employs some 800,000 people, workers have diagnosed positively for COVID-19 in at least 11 warehouses, forcing a prolonged closure of at least one warehouse in Kentucky.

An Amazon spokeswoman told Business Insider that Smalls was "alleging many misleading things".

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"Our employees are heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items they need in this crisis", an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.

Almost 100 workers intend to stop working Monday to urge Amazon to close the warehouse for cleaning. "Unfortunately, Amazon appears to be prioritizing maximizing its enormous profits even over its employees' safety - and that is unacceptable", said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

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.

Workers in other states where Amazon operates grocery services have received similar communications, including California, Nevada, and Tennessee. The company already has plans to hire 100,000 workers to keep up with demand, but that clearly isn't enough right now. "Whole Foods said we wouldn't get it unless we got a positive test".

The walkout will start at 12:30 p.m. and could involve 50 to 200 people, Smalls estimates.

"As we continue to see a significant increase in demand for grocery orders, we are offering temporary opportunities for associates across our fulfilment network to provide additional support", an Amazon spokesperson said on late Friday, confirming the action.

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