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 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.
The protest organized by Smalls followed the recording 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.
“Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, further putting the teams at risk,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC. “This is unacceptable and we have terminated his employment as a result of these multiple safety issues.”
The spokesperson further described the worker’s accusations as “unfounded.”
“Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable,” the company said in a statement. “The truth is the vast majority of employees continue to show up and do the heroic work of delivering for customers every day.”
Meanwhile, New York’s Attorney General had asked the National Labor Relations Board 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.”