“Alexa! Take us Home”: Amazon warehouse employees call for protest

May 14, 2020

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2 min read

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What's going on here?

With infection figures showing no signs of slowing down, warehouse workers at Amazon across the US have come out guns blazing against the e-commerce giant due to their employee protection policy for the COVID-19 pandemic.

What does this mean?

Recently, a worker at Amazon’s facility in Waukegan, US died after contracting the coronavirus, taking the death toll to a total of four. The company has not disclosed the total number of warehouse workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 and pressure continues to mount with employees claiming a lack of face masks, regular temperature checks and paid sick leave.  

On 1 May, Amazon suspended their policy, introduced in the wake of the pandemic, that provides employees with the benefit of unlimited unpaid time off in case of sickness, parental commitments without the risk of losing their jobs. 1 May is also celebrated as International Workers’ Day. Ironic, isn’t it?

What's the big picture effect?

Many economists have predicted that consumer services will be worst-affected by the pandemic. Despite this, the tech giant is reported to announce a record-high quarterly earnings.

An Amazon warehouse employee recently filed a suit against the company for being fired after taking medical leave with coronavirus, as well as raising concerns related to workplace safety.  Apparently, Amazon has dismissed multiple workers who raised similar questions to senior management. A company spokesperson, however, has categorically denied any of the allegations raised by the two labour organizations pushing these issues, namely, United for Respect and Amazon Employees for Climate Justice.  

Employer-employee conflict in e-commerce might seem relatively recent but Amazon has been at the receiving end of media scrutiny and non-profits working for employee rights for a while now. In a report filed by Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, it was found that Amazon warehouses have also become increasingly injury-prone for workers due to long working hours and poor workspace design. This pandemic will serve as a key point in time for Amazon as the world watches whether America’s second-highest private sector employer will prioritize its profits over workers or vice versa.

Report written by Pratyush Chaturvedi

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