Amazon has fired the organizer of a strike over coronavirus conditions — though the company is claiming it had nothing to do with the walkout.
Chris Smalls was among several employees leading the Monday strike at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York. Two employees at the warehouse had tested positive for COVID-19, and workers walked off the job to demand the warehouse be closed and sanitized while fully paying workers, Vice reports.
Smalls, a process assistant who'd worked for five years at the warehouse, apparently came in "close contact" with one of those employees and was told to stay home for 14 days with full pay, an Amazon spokesperson said. "Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, putting the teams at risk," the spokesperson told CNN. The company didn't acknowledge strikers' demands.
Smalls said other employees who'd been around the infected employees more hadn't been quarantined. And while he expected he might be fired over the walkout, Smalls said it reveals how Amazon's leaders "don't care about people." New York Attorney General Letitia James slammed Smalls' firing as "disgraceful."
Also on Tuesday, workers at the Amazon-owned Whole Foods grocery store chain organized a massive "sick-out" to protest their conditions. Employees were set to call in sick to demand paid leave for all workers who call out sick or are quarantining during the pandemic, free COVID-19 testing for all employees, and hazard pay that doubles the current hourly wage for workers. Shoppers for the grocery delivery chain Instacart started a walkout Monday as well to call for similar protections, but Instacart claimed the strike had "no impact" on its operations and has refused to meet any of the strikers' demands. Kathryn Krawczyk
Update 5 p.m. ET: A representative for Amazon said the company has "taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available, changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances and in Staten Island we are now temperature checking everyone entering the facility. The truth is the vast majority of employees continue to show up and do the heroic work of delivering for customers every day." This story has additionally been updated to correct Smalls' title.