Amazon employee fired after protesting lack of coronavirus protection for warehouse workers

Louis Staples
Thursday 02 April 2020 08:30
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(iStock)

Amazon has fired an employee based in the New York warehouse after he helped organise a worker walkout to protest the company's response to the Covid-19

The company confirmed the firing on 30 March, telling CNN Business in a statement that warehouse employee Christian Smalls was supposed to be under quarantine and ignored their guidelines. They didn't mention the protest.

Mr Smalls was found to have had close contact with a diagnosed associate with a confirmed case of Covid-19 and was asked to remain home with pay for 14 days, which is a measure we're taking at sites around the world.

Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, putting the teams at risk.

But the timing of the firing (directly after a protest partly organised by Smalls, who had called on Amazon to shut down the Staten Island facility and clean it properly after several cases of the coronavirus emerged there) has raised a lot of eyebrows.

Smalls told CNN he had tried to persuade senior warehouse managers to close the building and clean it so that it was more safe for workers, but they refused.

New York has become the US capital for coronavirus cases. At the time of writing, state has seen more than 75,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,000 deaths.

The protest organised by Smalls saw around 12 people walk off the job at around 1pm. Despite Amazon saying the firing was for other reasons, Smalls claims he is being “singled out” for punishment because of the protest.

Everybody's been warning me that [this] might happen, so I kinda expected it.

But for them to do it this way, and for the reasoning behind it, that tells you right there that they, number one, don't care about people, and number two, it's just a target, a straight up target.

Smalls said he hopes government officials will intervene. Amazon's statement also hasn't convinced New York Attorney General Letitia James, who said that "it is disgraceful that Amazon would terminate an employee who bravely stood up to protect himself and his colleagues".

At the height of a global pandemic, Chris Smalls and his colleagues publicly protested the lack of precautions that Amazon was taking to protect them from Covid-19.

Today, Chris Smalls was fired. In New York, the right to organize is codified into law, and any retaliatory action by management related thereto is strictly prohibited.

James also called for an investigation by the National Labor Relations Board. Smalls has said that he intends to file a complaint with the NLRB.

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