Companies Use COVID-19 Pandemic to Attack Workers
Amazon, hospitals, and the Kennedy Center are abusing workers during this crisis
Last week, UCOMM reported on companies that are stepping up to help build PPE, produce hand sanitizer, and ramp up production for ventilators. While the pandemic has brought out the best in these companies, the ones below are using it to attack workers. Thanks to the AFL-CIO these companies are being exposed for the villains they are. -Kris LaGrange
While the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks its havoc on the world's population, working people are on the front lines, joining together to save lives and keep the United States running. And many are paying the ultimate price. The latest numbers from the CDC show that nearly 400,000 Americans have contracted the virus and more than 12,000 have died. We're currently facing one of the most challenging events in recent history.
And some greedy corporations are using this time to attack these working people, attempting to use a crisis to roll back the rights of the very people who are dying while keeping America running.
Here are the corporations that have used the pandemic to attack the rights of working people.
Amazon: A coalition of labor and community organizations, including the AFL-CIO, wrote: "We write to you today shocked at reports that Amazon warehouses are not practicing the protocols necessary to protect the well-being of your workers and of the public. And we are outraged to hear that not only did Amazon executives NOT promptly address the concerns being articulated by your own workers, but you actually fired one of the lead whistleblowers immediately following his courageous action [March 30]. We call for the swift reinstatement of Chris Smalls to reassure all workers and observers that speaking out about improvements needed to health and safety practices right now is not only tolerated, but WELCOMED as critically important to all of our well-being."
Everlane: Employees who voted to join a union at the end of 2019 were laid off before the company recognized the union. "According to one of the laid-off employees (who has requested anonymity, but who we’ll call Megan for this article) the local Communications Workers of America (CWA) union sent a letter to Everlane seeking job reinstatement and union recognition. The union members asked for formal recognition on March 23, just days before the layoffs. The intention to unionize was first announced at the end of 2019, but because of the 'high turnove'” rate of the role, according to Megan, they weren’t able to reach a strong enough majority until March. Megan added that Everlane did not respond to the unionization effort before they were laid off." Everlane has denied the layoffs were related to the union drive.
Kennedy Center: After President Donald Trump signed relief legislation that included $25 million for the Kennedy Center, management laid off National Symphony Orchestra members. The District of Columbia Federation of Musicians/AFM Local 161-710 accused the Kennedy Center of violating the collective bargaining agreement that covers the orchestra members. The co-chair of the federation, Steve Wilson, said: "Kennedy Center president Deborah Rutter illegally decided to stop paying us, and refused to promise to continue our healthcare past May. We have, throughout, been willing to collaborate and discuss ways to work with Kennedy Center management during this challenging time. Illegally breaking our contract isn't an option here." After the union complained, the center reversed its decision.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital (Chicago): "Lauri Mazurkiewicz, a nurse who lives outside Chicago, grew nervous when she was repeatedly exposed to patients diagnosed with covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. 'This is so contagious. It’s spreading so fast. I need an N95 mask....She happened to have an N95 and began wearing it during her rounds at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, she said, but was told the hospital was prohibiting the use of N95 masks and using regular surgical masks instead....She sent an email warning her colleagues that those masks were less effective. She was fired shortly afterward—the result, she alleged in a lawsuit against the hospital, of her attempts to 'disclose public corruption and/or wrongdoing.'"
Oklahoma Heart Hospital (Oklahoma City): "Kevin Readel, another nurse in Oklahoma City, said he was fired for a similar reason—but in his case, it was for insisting on wearing a mask while with patients. He said he was told 'point blank that I can’t wear a mask' because it 'could cause fear and anxiety amongst the other nurses and the patients.' He filed a suit against Oklahoma Heart Hospital South for wrongful termination, claiming that 'the hospital was more concerned about the perception of due diligence than actually performing due diligence.'"
Powell's Bookstore: After announcing that the bookstore would lay off most of its workforce because of the coronavirus pandemic, Powell's said they were hiring 100 workers, full-time and with benefits. "The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 5, says only 49 of those 100-plus staffers were laid off in the first place. The others 'are management staff, doing frontline bookseller, shelver and shipping work, instead of the union workers who were trained to do this work and did that work every day....While frontline booksellers, shelvers and shippers remain on layoff status, Powell’s has trumpeted the fact that ‘over 100 workers’ have been brought back to work. While we understand the difficult nature of the situation COVID-19 has created in our society, we remain incredibly disappointed in how Powell’s has dealt with this situation and treated workers.'"
Select Specialty Hospital (Oklahoma City): A nurse, Laura Moreno, was told she could not wear a protective mask in the hospital's common areas. "I was told if I wanted to wear a mask, I would not be working there. So I said I’m not willing to put my life at risk, and my contract was terminated....But by the next afternoon, after The Post had contacted the hospital, she said hospital officials 'had completely changed their tune' and decided to allow nurses to wear masks throughout the hospital and not just in patient rooms. On Friday, she went back to work."
This list will be updated as more stories come in.