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Amazon Fires Worker for Organizing

NY Amazon workers walked out over COVID-19 safety procedures

Mohammed Sarker's picture
Apr 01, 2020

Let’s clear the ambiguity: America is at war, a total war against an invisible enemy that threatens all of us, regardless of age, ideology, class or creed. This enemy, of course, is COVID-19, popularly known as Coronavirus, which threatens everything dear to us from the economy to national security, to our livelihoods and lives, to even our ability to take a simple stroll outside. While medical workers fight on the frontlines against this pandemic, it’s important that we all make collective sacrifices, those of us who can afford to stay home at all times should do so, this “social distancing” is essential to ensure the virus doesn’t spread, which will only prolong the crisis and increase deaths. This goes without saying.

People are increasingly turning to online services for shopping, as seen with the daily visitor count at Amazon jumping from 5 million to 73 million during March. What isn’t being talked about is the secondary, equally important front in the war against Corona. The workers at Amazon and all other online services, who are working tirelessly to ensure that the digital economy is still working and the essential goods we need: food, toilet paper, hand sanitizers, masks, are still being delivered. They are also often working without proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the company is refusing to keep facilities as clean as they need to be to stop the spread of the disease.

On Monday, Amazon workers at the Staten Island, NY warehouse, held a walkout to protest Amazon’s lack of care for their workforce. Workers were calling on Amazon to clean or close facilities, where employees have tested positive for COVID-19. About 50 workers joined in the walkout, which isn’t surprising given uneven safety precautions in Amazon warehouses. Workers say that many warehouses ration or straight up don’t have towels, hand sanitizers, masks, and other expected materials needed to be able to do their jobs safely.

After the protest, Amazon fired one of the organizers of the protest, Chris Smalls, Amazon has a notorious reputation for being an employer that cracks down on workers trying to form a union and workers who are standing up for their rights, so it’s no surprise that they took this illegal action.

“Taking action cost me my job,” Smalls said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “Because I tried to stand up for something that’s right, the company decided to retaliate against me. Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our families, and our communities safe. I am outraged and disappointed, but I’m not shocked. As usual, Amazon would rather sweep a problem under the rug than act to keep workers and working communities safe.”

The Amazon workers were aided in their actions by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Workers Union (RWDSU).

“Workers should be protected when speaking out about safety conditions during this crisis,” said RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum. "They are performing a public service. It is unacceptable that Amazon has terminated Chris Smalls for doing that today rather than addressing their serious COVID-19 safety problems.”

Amazon has proved time and time again that they don’t believe in paying their workers a living wage, this is (tragically) not news. Today Amazon has shown us that they don’t really care about their worker’s capital L lives either. Even for Bezos, that’s a low blow.

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