Workers at a Staten Island Amazon warehouse tried to make that point by staging a walkout, which led to the firing of one of the walkout’s organizers on Monday.
CNBC reports that Chris Smalls, a management assistant at the warehouse facility called JFK8, said he was fired on Monday after he organized a walkout to protest what he and other employees considered a lack of protections for people who still had to go to work after one employee had tested positive for coronavirus last week.
“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,” Smalls said in a statement. “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.”
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Smalls told CNBC that all he and his coworkers were asking for was “a simple building closure and [for] it to be professionally sanitized.” He said that “people were afraid and that’s all we were asking for; nothing more, nothing less.”
A spokesperson from Amazon had a different story to tell, confirming to CNBC that Smalls was fired but that it was because he himself was the one creating health risks by violating social distancing guidelines after being given “multiple warnings.”
“Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, further putting the teams at risk,” the spokesperson said. “This is unacceptable and we have terminated his employment as a result of these multiple safety issues.”
In a statement, Amazon called the workers’ accusations “unfounded” and claimed they work hard at keeping their workers safe.
You can see the video here, taken by another Amazon employee and showing how many people are still working and how close to each other they all are. “We’re all going to die,” the employee says repeatedly in the video. According to CNBC, JFK8 is around 855,000 square feet and has 4,500 workers.