New York lawmakers and unions call on Bezos to close Amazon buildings affected by COVID-19


Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos delivers the keynote address at the Air Force Association's annual Air, Space & Cyber ​​conference in Oxen Hill, MD on September 19, 2018.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

A group of New York lawmakers, large unions and Amazon workers wrote a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos on Wednesday asking him to strengthen protections for warehouse workers who continue to work during the coronavirus epidemic.

In a letter to Bezos, the 45 New York lawmakers, the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice advocacy group, and several unions, including the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union, called on Bezos to better protect workers from warehouses.

"You claim to have adopted a number of practices to clean up construction sites and protect workers," the letter said. "But a convincing number of workers have come forward - and even run the incredible personal risk of leaving work - to report that the real situation in the warehouses does not match Amazon's public relations statements. Your workers deserve to have full protection and to be sure they will not take COVID-19 home. "

An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC in a statement that the group’s accusations were "baseless." The spokesperson added that the company has implemented a “wide range” of new changes in employee benefits since the start of the pandemic and has implemented a number of new security measures at its facilities to protect employees.

"Nothing is more important than the safety of our teams," said the spokesperson. “From the first days of this situation, we worked closely with the health authorities to respond proactively, making sure to continue to serve customers while taking care of our associates and our teams. "

Amazon workers at Amazon’s warehouse on Staten Island are requesting that the facilities be closed and cleaned up after an employee tested positive for Coronavirus on March 30, 2020 in New York City.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

Amazon previously stated that it had made "great efforts" to keep the facilities clean and to ensure that employees follow the necessary safety precautions, such as washing hands, using hand sanitizer, distancing social and other measures. The company also said it was consulting with health officials and medical experts on how to handle building closings for thorough cleaning after an employee tested positive.

The group said it supports calls by Amazon workers to close the warehouse by the company after it reported cases of coronavirus. They also called for the "quick reinstatement" of Chris Smalls, a worker at an Amazon facility on Staten Island who was fired on Monday after staging a protest calling for greater protections. The company said it fired Smalls for not following social distancing rules after it was quarantined.

The letter also urges Bezos and Amazon to conduct independent health and safety inspections of its facilities, to cancel all productivity requirements that "limit employees' time for proper sanitation", provide retroactive compensation to workers who have taken leave without pay during the coronavirus epidemic and to issue a public statement of improved safety protocols "for the safety of your workers and the public".

Amazon has felt pressure on several fronts to take safety precautions for warehouse workers. Last month, four senators sent a letter to Bezos, asking him to grant workers paid sick leave and one and a half risk pay. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio Tuesday called Amazon to return Smalls to work and said the New York Sheriff's Office would continue to inspect Amazon's facilities on Staten Island to ensure it respects the rules of social distancing. New York State Attorney General Letitia James also condemned Amazon’s dismissal of Smalls.

Amazon warehouse workers at a Michigan facility walked out on Wednesday to demand that Amazon shut down after reporting positive coronavirus reports. Workers also called on the company to put in place better protections for workers.

WATCH: Warehouse workers in Amazon's Staten Island complain of coronavirus problems


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