Amazon faces new pressure over COVID protections in warehouses

Amazon faces new questions about failed COVID protections at its fulfillment centers, prompted by New York Attorney General Letitia James. After more than a year of worker protests and consultations from lawmakers, James is now seeking a court order demanding that Amazon appoint a monitor to oversee health and safety measures at its Staten Island warehouse. As part of the same motion, James asked the company to reinstate fired worker Christian Smalls, who led public protests against Amazon last year, accusing the company of failing to prevent employees from contracting the virus at work.

According to James, Amazon has reversed many of its health and safety measures at the warehouse, known as JFK8. The Staten Island warehouse, which employs about 5,000 people, has been the scene of a tug of war between Amazon and its employees.

“Amazon and its leadership amassed billions of dollars during the COVID-19 pandemic and as the crisis progresses, the health and concerns of workers continue to be ignored,” James said in a statement. “Amazon must ensure a work environment that promotes safety, transparency and respect for its hardworking employees, not one that puts them in further danger.”

In February, Amazon pre-emptively sued the New York AG office, saying the office lacked legal authority to demand legal recourse for the company’s handling of COVID-19 conditions at JFK8. James’ office filed a lawsuit against the company four days later, alleging that Amazon failed to protect its warehouse employees in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and retaliated against workers who expressed concern over what they viewed as measures of protection. insufficient security.

Workers at Amazon’s JKF8 warehouse said in March 2020 that they did not have enough protective gear and were not informed if their co-workers tested positive for the coronavirus.

Amazon fired several workers who protested the conditions, including Smalls, after the workers held public protests. Amazon said at the time that Smalls and the other workers were fired not for protesting but for violating social distancing rules. James sought an investigation by the National Labor Relations Board and called Smalls’s firing “embarrassing.”

James says in the latest motion, filed in the New York State Supreme Court, that Amazon “illegally fired and sanctioned workers who reported concerns about the company’s compliance with these health and safety mandates, including Christian Smalls.” . James is also seeking a court order to reinstate Smalls on an interim basis, pending the outcome of the lawsuit. The lawsuit claims that Smalls’ firing served as intimidation to other employees who may be afraid to raise additional concerns.

James also alleges that Amazon violated state law when it failed to perform proper cleaning protocols, according to an investigation by his office, and that its contact tracing program failed to identify workers who had come into contact with other people who tested positive for the virus.

The motion asks the court to order Amazon to change the way it monitors employee productivity to allow time for cleaning and social distancing and requires the company to adopt proper disinfection protocols when an infected worker has been on the job. installations. AG’s office also wants the company to institute better COVID-19 contact tracing protocols, which would include notifying close contacts of infected workers. The lawsuit seeks to have a court-appointed monitor oversee these changes.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Leave a Comment