States ask Amazon for info on COVID-19 deaths, infections among workers

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A group of state attorneys general on Tuesday asked Amazon for data on coronavirus infections and deaths among the retail giant’s workforce.

The letter, led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D), also called on Amazon and Whole Foods to produce a detailed accounting of their health and safety precautions as well as to document their compliance with local and state paid sick leave laws.

Healey and fellow state law enforcement officials cited reports earlier this year alleging retaliation against workers for calling attention to unsafe conditions. One such worker, Christian Smalls, has said he was fired from Amazon’s Staten Island, N.Y., warehouse in late March after organizing a walkout. Amazon denies Smalls’s firing was retaliatory and said he disobeyed instructions to self-quarantine.

Other signatories of the letter include representatives of the attorney general’s offices in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington state and Washington, D.C. It follows a March 25 letter from a similar coalition of states asking for Amazon and Whole Foods to improve their paid-leave policies.

“Amazon and Whole Foods must take every possible step to protect their employees and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Healey said in a statement. “We again call on these companies to provide assurances that they are complying with state laws and federal guidance aimed at keeping essential workers safe during this crisis.”

The letter requests state-by-state information on coronavirus infections and deaths among workers, as well as a full description of their protocols for informing customers and public health officials about deaths and infections, which is required under some states’ consumer protection laws.

The attorneys general further call on the companies to provide “generous paid leave policies as outlined in the states’ March 25 letter that align with requirements in the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” including up to 12 weeks of paid leave for any workers forced to stay at home and care for children because of school closures.

Amazon said in a statement in response to the letter that “safety is our top priority and we are committed to ensuring a clean and safe workplace.”

“We’ve implemented over 150 significant process changes—from enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures to new efforts like disinfectant spraying,” an Amazon spokesperson told The Hill in the statement. “We’ve also distributed personal protective gear like masks across our entire operations network. We’ll continue to invest in safety, pay, and benefits for our teams who are playing an invaluable role in getting items to communities around the world.”

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