WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) along with Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), pressed Amazon yesterday on the treatment and safety of its front-line warehouse workers, and repeated their call for the tech giant to temporarily close any warehouses where a worker tests positive for COVID-19.
Additionally, the lawmakers questioned Amazon over its abrupt termination last week of one of its warehouse employees.
While the company claimed the firing stemmed from the worker violating a mandatory quarantine, circumstances surrounding the sudden termination – which include an apparent smear campaign orchestrated by company executives to discredit the employee – seem to indicate he was fired in retaliation for organizing a protest against the company over its lack of protections for workers.
“We write to express our continued concern about working conditions at Amazon as well as recent actions Amazon has taken, including the recent firing of an Amazon warehouse employee who was involved in organizing their coworkers for stronger workplace protections at the facility in Staten Island, NY,” the lawmakers wrote. “The right to organize is a bedrock of our economy, responsible for many of the greatest advances achieved by workers over generations. Adding to our concern are leaked meeting notes from a meeting you attended, where top executives at Amazon designed a smear campaign to discredit the fired employee.”
“Any failure of Amazon to keep its workers safe does not just put their employees at risk, it puts the entire country at risk,” the lawmakers added.
In the letter to Bezos, the Senators asked the CEO to reply to the following questions by April 14:
- When did the fired employee come into contact with the diagnosed employee? When did Amazon ask them to self-quarantine?
- How many other employees at the Staten Island location were told to self-quarantine and when were those employees told?
- Will Amazon assure the public and its employees that they will allow their workers to freely and publicly address concerns they have in the workplace without fear of retribution?
- What criteria is Amazon using to decide whether to shut down a warehouse after a worker tests positive? Will Amazon agree to temporarily shut down a warehouse whenever a worker tests positive?
- How does Amazon plan on improving transparency during instances in which a worker tests positive? Will Amazon agree to let their employees know whenever a worker at their worksite tests positive?
- How is Amazon ensuring that there is adequate essential supplies at their facilities, including disposable gloves and masks as well as essential supplies like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes?
Full text of the letter is available here.
The letter follows a letter Brown and Booker sent last month to the tech company, expressing concern for the safety of its warehouse and delivery workers, and urging the company to provide necessary protective gear and agree to temporarily close facilities in which a worker tests positive for the virus.