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Amazon Workers Protest for Safer Workplace During COVID-19

Amazon warehouses have been hotspots for COVID-19 cases nationwide. (Adobe Stock)
Amazon warehouses have been hotspots for COVID-19 cases nationwide. (Adobe Stock)
May 14, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Amazon's firing of workers who speak out on working conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic is galvanizing labor organizers.

Over the past few months, media outlets have profiled several workers who say they were fired for protesting lack of social distancing measures and personal protective equipment while working at Amazon's fulfillment centers.

And this month the vice president at Amazon Web Services quit the company over its treatment of warehouse workers.

Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, says the pandemic is putting the spotlight on the e-commerce giant's unchecked power over its employees.

"Right now with COVID-19, I think we're seeing workers become more cognizant of the fact that unless they do organize, unless they have the right to collectively bargain, then they basically don't have any rights to their jobs at all," he states.

In a web statement, Amazon says it expects to spend more than $800 million during the first half of the year on COVID-19 safety measures.

The company also has said its employees will receive up to two weeks of paid time off if they are diagnosed with COVID-19.

Amazon operates at least 10 fulfillment centers in Kentucky.

Since the pandemic started, coronavirus cases have swelled among warehouse workers, yet the e-commerce giant has refused to release the number of confirmed cases.

Londrigan says workers' lives are at risk.

"We've heard reports of folks not having access to personal protective equipment, mask, gloves, things that they would benefit from having in a warehouse situation," he states.

Earlier this week, a group of state attorneys general sent a letter to the company calling for the disclosure of how many of its warehouse workers and Whole Foods employees have been infected with or died from the coronavirus.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - KY