Fired Amazon striker demands Bezos protect workers in open letter

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Chris Smalls, an Amazon worker who was fired from his job at the retail giant’s Staten Island warehouse after organizing a walkout, demanded on Thursday that CEO Jeff Bezos better protect workers and noted the company is reliant on them amid the coronavirus pandemic in an open letter.

In the letter, published in The Guardian, Smalls said he first began noticing symptoms such as fatigue, light-headedness and vomiting among workers at the facility in early March, before the first case was confirmed at the facility. Smalls wrote that he brought his concerns to human resources, who insisted they were following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Within the facility, Smalls said, workers have been given rubber gloves rather than latex, no masks and limited cleaning supplies. He wrote that, feeling unsafe, he exhausted his paid time off to avoid getting sick.

Smalls adds that the company has imposed mandatory overtime to keep up with demand, meaning numerous employees are at work “sick as dogs” to earn overtime pay, which he refers to as “blood money.”

The company has said Smalls was fired not for organizing the walkout but for coming to work despite being told to quarantine himself after coming into contact with a worker who tested positive. Smalls wrote that the company did not put any other workers on quarantine and that he believes he was targeted for retaliation.

He adds that he has gotten calls from numerous other workers seeking to stage walkouts of their own, writing, “We are starting a revolution and people around the country support us.”

“If you’re an Amazon customer, here’s how you can practice real social distancing: stop clicking the ‘Buy now’ button. Go to the grocery store instead. You might be saving some lives,” he writes. “And to Mr. Bezos my message is simple. I don’t give a damn about your power. You think you’re powerful? We’re the ones that have the power. Without us working, what are you going to do? You’ll have no money. We have the power. We make money for you. Never forget that.”

New York state and city officials have called for action on Smalls’s firing, with state Attorney General Letitia James (D) calling for an investigation and Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) saying that if Smalls was fired for staging the walkout it would violate city laws.

The Hill has reached out to Amazon for comment.

Tags Amazon Bill de Blasio Coronavirus Jeff Bezos Labor Walkout

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