Workers at a New York Amazon warehouse walked off the job for the second time after more employees contracted novel coronavirus (COVID-19) while working in Staten Island.
Employees at Amazon’s distribution center - known as JFK8 - began a strike at noon on Monday, April 6, amid complaints that more than two dozens warehouse staffers have tested positive for COVID-19.
The workers are demanding that Amazon temporarily close down the warehouse for sanitizing, while employees are provided with full pay. They’ve also requested an increase in their daily paid break for each shift, staggered shift and break times, and to enforce the practice of social distancing while on the job.
Currently, Amazon does not provide unpaid time off for hourly workers who show signs of the symptoms of COVID-19 or may have sick people at home.
This is the second time workers at JFK8 went on a strike in two weeks, the first after Chris Smalls, an employee at the warehouse, was fired after organizing the strike.
Stuart Appelbaum, the President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), said that the strike was “in support of the Amazon workers walking out today.”
“RWDSU supports Amazon workers’ demands for stronger protections at the Staten Island facility and at all facilities in the United States," he said. "Amazon workers have walked out again today in New York because of an increased number of COVID-19 cases at the JFK8 facility.
“Workers have repeatedly reported their concerns about serious issues impacting their own health and safety at this and many other Amazon facilities. The RWDSU continues to support their voices speaking out on this issue.”
Appelbaum noted that “Amazon workers are speaking out across the globe because they need a real seat at the table in expressing their concerns.”
"It took an 11-day strike for workers at one fulfillment center in Italy to win increased daily breaks, a detailed agreement on cleaning and sanitizing practices at the facility, and staggered break times and working distances,” he noted.
Amazon spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said, “like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable. “We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances.”
“We demand that Amazon, at a minimum, listen to their own employees’ voices and make appropriate policy changes. If they were willing to do that in Italy, they have no justification for refusing to negotiate with their employees here in New York or at any of their facilities across the U.S. The number of Amazon’s COVID-19 cases continues to grow at staggering rates.”
According to Appelbaum, “Clearly Amazon must do better for its workforce. Amazon needs to listen to its workers who are at risk during this global pandemic.
"Amazon needs to understand this is a matter of life and death for its employees - and not just another public relations problem.”
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