‘Dildos are not essential items’ – Amazon workers protest unsafe working conditions as COVID-19 spreads

Francis Akhalbey April 02, 2020
Amazon workers at its Romulus warehouse want the facility shut down temporarily amid coronavirus spread -- Screenshot via WXYZ.com

Amazon workers at its Romulus warehouse in Michigan protested working conditions Wednesday as they feel the trillion dollar company isn’t doing enough to keep them safe from catching the coronavirus.

According to WXYZ, the workers, who say they fear for their health and that of their families, staged a walkout calling for the warehouse to be shut down for two weeks after three of their colleagues tested positive for COVID-19. The workers say the closure of the facility would prevent them from being exposed to the virus.

“You have people coughing and sneezing as you are walking and something needs to be done,” Tonya Ramsey, an employee at the warehouse, which is also known as DTW1, said.

“You are not really doing social distancing. There’s about 500 to 600 people in the building on a daily basis. In some areas we are shoulder-to-shoulder and can’t be 6 feet away.”

Mario Chippen, another worker told WXYZ: “I stand for everybody here beside me. I want DTW 1 to be shut down immediately for professional cleaning.”

The sale of non-essential items, which hasn’t been halted, was another grievance raised by the workers.

“They should not be selling non-essential items,” said Chippen. “If you go on the website, all the essential items are sold out.”

According to the workers, stopping the sale of non-essential items would reduce workload for the time being and also allow for much needed social distancing among its 4,000 employees.

“Dildos are not essential items,” Chippen, who told WXYZ he packages a humongous amount of the sex item on a daily basis, said.

“Books? For kids, yes. But, dildos? No.”

In a related news, a former Amazon worker in New York has accused the e-commerce giant of firing him after demanding the company upgrade its precautionary measures amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Chris Smalls, a management assistant, and organizer at JFK8, a Staten Island Amazon facility was fired Monday for leading about 50 workers to protest the company’s indifference towards the health and safety of workers as the coronavirus contagion ravages the United States.

The protest organized by Smalls followed a confirmation of a positive coronavirus case at the facility last week.

“Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our families, and our communities safe,” Smalls said in a statement. “I am outraged and disappointed, but I’m not shocked. As usual, Amazon would rather sweep a problem under the rug than act to keep workers and working communities safe.”

Amazon, however, said Smalls was fired for breaking quarantine rules. The company said Smalls received “multiple warnings” for violating social distancing guidelines.

Meanwhile, New York’s Attorney General has asked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to open an investigation into the incident. “It is disgraceful that Amazon would terminate an employee who bravely stood up to protect himself and his colleagues,” Lelita James, said in an email to Business Insider.

She added: “At a time when so many New Yorkers are struggling and are deeply concerned about their safety, this action was also immoral and inhumane.”

She also condemned the incident on her Twitter page and confirmed she’s considering taking legal action against the company. “In this midst of a pandemic, Chris Smalls & his colleagues bravely protested the lack of precautions that @amazon employed to protect them from #COVID19. Then he was fired,” she shared.

“I’m considering all legal options & calling on the NLRB to investigate. Amazon, this is disgraceful.”

The US has more confirmed cases than any other country – over 185,400, according to a CNN count. More than 3,800 people have died in the US. 

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: April 2, 2020


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