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Topline: Workers at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse will stage a walkout on Monday over the online retailer’s decision to keep the facility open despite a confirmed case there, and wider concerns that the e-commerce giant is not adequately protecting its workers against the health and economic impacts of COVID-19.
- Up to 200 staff members will walk off site at 12:30p.m. Coordinator Cristian Smalls told CNN: “We’re not asking for much. We’re asking the building to be closed and sanitized, and for us to be paid.”
- Smalls, an assistant manager at the warehouse who manages up to 600 people a week, said the facility was a “breeding ground” for the pandemic, CNN reported.
- Workers across at least 13 Amazon facilities have tested positive for coronavirus to date, across eight states, and employees are campaigning for those warehouses to be closed down for sterilization while employees are given sick leave and tested. At least two facilities have been closed following positive diagnoses.
- Currently, Amazon employees who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or who have come into contact with an infected person, must stay home, and will be given two weeks’ paid leave, CEO Jeff Bezos said in a blog post.
- Monday’s walkout follows calls by Amazon employees for Bezos to provide better protections for staff. At least 4,670 employees have signed a petition asking for paid sick leave for all workers, regardless of diagnosis, amid a wider lack of tests in the U.S.
- Amazon says it is committed to the health and safety of its employees and has “increased the frequency and intensity of cleaning at all sites,” as well as promoted social distancing guidelines across its network.
Key background: Amid closures of non-essential businesses, social distancing measures and restrictions on movement for half the U.S. population, Amazon has emerged as a somewhat essential business as people stuck at home turn to the company for groceries and goods they can no longer buy in person. The company has opened 100,000 positions across its 500+ fulfillment centres across the U.S., to cope with the surge in demand, but Bezos has been criticised for being unable to provide adequate protection for workers, which he has blamed on a global shortage of facemasks.
In numbers: There are now at least 776 confirmed deaths linked to COVID-19 in New York City alone, which is the centre of the outbreak in the U.S. Nationwide, confirmed cases have surged to almost 150,000 as of Monday morning. Some 2,500 people have died in the U.S. after contracting coronavirus, while 4,800 have recovered.
Tangent: President Donald Trump over the weekend decided against quarantining New York state, and instead asked for the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a “strong travel advisory” for the tri-state area.
Further reading: Amazon Workers In At Least 10 Warehouses Test Positive For Coronavirus (Lauren Debter)