Chris Smalls, an employee at an Amazon warehouse facility in Staten Island, NYC, claims he was fired after staging a walkout to call for the company to postpone operations and demand better protection amidst the coronavirus pandemic. He says that several employees there had already tested positive with COVID-19.
“Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our families, and our communities safe,” Smalls said in a statement. “I am outraged and disappointed, but I’m not shocked. As usual, Amazon would rather sweep a problem under the rug than act to keep workers and working communities safe.”
Smalls added that he and his workers were just asking for greater protective measures, including facility closure so that it could be sanitized. He said that they are also worried that the management might not be telling them the truth about the number of colleagues that have actually tested positive.
More than that, Smalls said the company allowed a worker who was tested after showing symptoms of the illness to go to work until her test results came back positive the next day. Smalls said it has caused a spread of the virus to her friend and might spread to others as well.
Amazon, however, argues that Smalls was fired because he violated the company’s quarantine rules when he organized the walkout where 15 people reportedly gathered. The company also said that he was “further putting the teams at risk” when he came to work “despite that instruction to stay home with pay.”
The company also denied all the allegations of the employees. It said in a statement, “Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable. The truth is the vast majority of employees continue to show up and do the heroic work of delivering for customers every day.”
Meanwhile, New York State Attorney General Letitia James called Amazon’s firing of Smalls “disgraceful” and is looking to consider legal actions regarding the incident.