Amazon Worker Fired After Organizing a Walkout

Amazon Worker Fired After Organizing a Walkout

Whole Foods and Amazon employees have been speaking out about the lack of protections and PPE they’ve received since the start of this pandemic. Since an organized walkout this week, worker frustrations are coming to a culmination.

Earlier this week, an Amazon warehouse worker in New York helped organized a walkout—and was soon fired. Amazon and Whole Food workers—both managed by Amazon—have been calling for better sick paid leave policies, better pay, safer protections at work and more flexibility from managers. While Amazon claims it has gone to extensive measures to provide what it can, many workers do not think it’s enough.

On Monday, March 30, a group of workers walked off the job at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, and a sickout called by Whole Foods Market workers also occurred on Tuesday week. They were protesting what they see as inadequate safety measures and insufficient pay for the risks they confront, according to a New York Times article.

Amazon fired one of the workers who led the Staten Island walkout.

Delivery service workers and grocery store workers are among those individuals not only asked to go to work during the pandemic, but they are working overtime to keep up with the nonstop demand for groceries, online orders and other materials. Healthcare workers, postal service workers and cleaning personnel are two other groups that face increased risk to the virus while many Americans have either lost their jobs or are working from home.

This pandemic has highlighted the differences in social status and economic inequality in the country right now. While many white-collar workers can work from home—answering calls and emails and using webcast meetings—many blue collar workers (like those listed above) have continued to report to work, putting themselves and their families at heightened risk.

Christian Smalls, the Staten Island worker who was fired, said he had advised a colleague who was visibly ill to go home last week. She later tested positive for the virus.

Smalls has told management that the center should close for two weeks because there was no way to tell how many other workers had been infected. Other employees on the site had reported symptoms like fever.

Not long after the protest, Smalls was fired, and an Amazon spokeswoman said he had been let go because he had violated social-distancing guidelines and had come to the site Monday after having been told to stay home.

While Amazon admits no correlation between Smalls’ firing and the protest or his management concerns, the state of New York does not see it as such. New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, called the firing “disgraceful” on Twitter, and said she would ask the National Labor Relations Board to investigate.

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