Amazon is one of the few companies that has witnessed a surge in its products as the coronavirus pandemic ravages on.
However, the firm’s method of dealing with its warehouse workers continues to raise some significant questions – both from its employees and the public.
Changing the Rules for the Warehouses
The latest report that sheds the spotlight on the Seattle-based firm’s operational conduct is from The Guardian. The report explains that Amazon had restricted warehouse workers in California from getting paid sick leave.
As the report explained, several warehouse workers in the Inland Empire region – just outside of Los Angeles – confirmed that Amazon had failed to comply with a paid sick leave law that the state government especially implemented to help slow the spread of the virus in workplaces.
Even though up to four employees working in different warehouses in California have tested positive for the virus, Amazon is reportedly still forcing the workers to clock in every day.
California Governor Gavin Newsom amended the state’s paid sick leave back in April, expanding the policy to cover two weeks of paid leave if workers need to self-isolate. The policy also includes “workers at warehouses where food is stored,” thus putting Amazon warehouse workers in the same category.
Amazon already ended a policy allowing unlimited unpaid time off earlier this month. Under the policy, workers could refuse to clock into work for whatever reason. While they would have to forgo their pay, they could at least stay home without the fear of losing their jobs if they believed that they were in danger.
The company’s warehouse workers could now lose their jobs if they miss shifts for whatever reason. They’ve also pointed out that the policy could be counter-intuitive, as asymptomatic or vulnerable people who already have the virus could now clock into work and infect their co-workers.
There’s also the risk of workers who have underlying health conditions of their own/ these people, who ideally are the most vulnerable, are now forced to stay in harm’s way for fear of their livelihoods.
A San Bernardino worker with diabetes explained to the news source, “I’m afraid to come to work, but I don’t have a choice. I shouldn’t be there. We’re risking our safety for the company … The more I think about it, the more stressed I get.”
Amazon’s method of dealing with workers – especially those in its warehouses – has been appalling, to put it mildly. From refusing to look after their safety to working them round the clock, the firm’s handling has reinforced it as the picture of corporate greed.
Things are especially worse in New York, where there are more cases of the virus than in any other country in the world. Workers at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse have already expressed their displeasure with the firm, instituting protests and walkouts.
Workers at the facility, which they call JFK8, have confirmed that several of their colleagues have tested positive for the virus. Yet, Amazon chooses to do nothing. Even worse, the company fired the head of the protests, Chris Smalls, a day later.
Three days ago, The Verge confirmed that one of the workers at the facility had died. In a statement obtained by the news source, Amazon explained that the worker developed symptoms of the virus early last month. While they placed him on compulsory quarantine, he didn’t make it.