Hundreds of Amazon workers to walk off jobs starting Tuesday

Hundreds of Amazon workers to walk off jobs starting Tuesday
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More than 300 Amazon employees will call out of work starting Tuesday in protest of the online retail giant's treatment of workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The callout is organized by labor groups United for Respect, New York Communities for Change and Make the Road New York and will be the largest mass action by workers yet amid the crisis.

The nationwide protest follows several strikes at facilities in the New York City borough of Staten Island, Chicago and Detroit where employees have tested positive to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. 

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“I’m calling out this week because I’m scared to come to work and can’t trust Amazon to keep me and my co-workers safe,” Jaylen Camp, an Amazon worker at a fulfillment center in Romulus, Michigan, said.

“We have to make an impossible choice every day: go to a workplace that’s not safe or risk losing a paycheck in the middle of a global recession. Rather than take real steps to protect our health, Amazon would rather stall, lie and fire the people who speak up. We will not be intimidated. Our health and everyone’s health is too important,” Camp added.

More than 130 Amazon facilities have had at least one employee test positive for COVID-19, according to Athena, a coalition of advocacy groups focused on working conditions at Amazon.

The company last week confirmed the first death of a warehouse worker from the disease, although it remains unknown where the worker contracted it.

Amazon has taken steps to address some of the issues raised by workers, including pledging to increase cleaning and enforce social distancing measures at warehouses.

It has also raised wages for hourly workers by $2 per hour and offered paid time for those with fevers, a common symptom of COVID-19.

Workers say Amazon has not fulfilled its commitment to provide personal protective equipment for workers and that the paid leave policy has not been applied consistently.

Amazon spokesperson Rachael Lighty told The Hill Tuesday morning that the protesters’ “accusations are simply unfounded.”

“We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available, and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances,” she said in a statement. “The truth is the vast majority of employees continue to show up and do the heroic work of delivering for their communities every day.”

--This report was updated on April 21 at 10:05 a.m.