Chris Smalls, a warehouse employee, was fired after the company gave him multiple warnings for “violating social distancing guidelines,” reported CNBC.
Smalls, along with other Amazon employees, organized a walkout on Monday. The activists said nearly 50 employees had participated in the labor action. The strikers were asking for more protective measures for workers and for the closure of the facility after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. Amazon said less than 15 workers had participated in the action.
In a statement carried by CNBC, Smalls expressed his outrage, “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.”
An Amazon spokesperson claimed that even though Smalls was instructed to stay home with pay, he came onsite Monday. The spokesperson countered, “This is unacceptable and we have terminated his employment as a result of these multiple safety issues.”
Smalls claims that he did not breach any quarantine guidelines. In an interview with CNBC, he admitted that he had been in contact with a colleague, who tested positive for 2-5 minutes. Alledging that he was being victimized for speaking out, Smalls emphasized that all he had asked for was a "simple building closure" after one person tested positive.
Why It Matters
Amazon warehouse workers are not unionized, although the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union is making an effort to bring them onboard.
The Staten Island facility is not the only location where an Amazon employee has tested positive for COVID-19, another New York location has also been affected.
Delivery workers from other companies are also clamoring for more protective measures. Gig-workers at Instacart are ready to strike after rejecting proposals made by the company as “insulting” and a “sick joke.”
Instacart employees are asking the same-day grocery delivery company to increase their pay by $5 per order and to default the in-app tip to a minimum of 10% of the total order. The company’s offer amounted to hand sanitizer within a week, a default tip amount based on prior orders and a fixed bonus of $25-$100 instead of a per-order bonus.
According to the Governor of New York, as of Monday, the statewide total of those infected stood at 66,497, out of which 37,453 are in New York City.
Amazon shares traded 0.20% lower at $1,960 in the after hours session on Monday. The shares had closed the regular session 3.36% higher at $1,963.95.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Christian Smalls' Twitter.
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