Amazon is being investigated by New York City’s commission on human rights after it sacked a warehouse worker who led a strike in protest of coronavirus safety measures.
Yesterday the online retail giant fired Chris Smalls who they said himself violated “social distancing guidelines”, after coming into work to lead the strike despite instructions from Amazon to quarantine after coming into close contact with someone confirmed to have the virus.
Smalls alleges that Amazon sacked him in retaliation for leading the strike, which Amazon says was attended by 15 staff despite some sources reporting around 60 attendees.
Today, Amazon worker #ChrisSmalls helped lead an Amazon walkout for lack of COVID19 compliance that put workers, customers and New York in danger
— CPD Action (@CPDAction) March 31, 2020
Today New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio “ordered the city’s commission on human rights to investigate Amazon immediately to determine if that’s true”.
“If so, that would be a violation of our city’s human rights law and we would act on it immediately,” he added.
In response to yesterday’s reports, an Amazon spokesperson told Charged: “These accusations are simply unfounded. Of the more 5,000 employees at our Staten Island site, 15 people—less than half a percent of associates—participated in today’s demonstration. Our employees are heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items they need in this crisis.
“Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable.
“We have 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 move was also branded “immoral and inhumane” by the New York State Attorney General Letitia James, who said she is also considering all legal options.
Amazon workers in Florence, Italy also went on strike yesterday to protest working conditions, following numerous demonstrations across Europe.
Last week Frances finance minister Bruno Le Maire said Amazon’s pressure on staff to keep working was “unacceptable”.