Amazon Responds After Firing Workers Who Criticized Warehouse Workplace Conditions

Amazon has confirmed that it fired a couple of workers who criticized its warehouse workplace conditions.

According to a report today from The Washington Post, the e-commerce behemoth had terminated two employees who have called attention to a purported lack of protections at its warehouses during the coronavirus pandemic. (The newspaper is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.) These employees had also been critical of the company’s climate policies in the past.

“We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies,” an Amazon spokesperson told FN. “We terminated these employees for repeatedly violating internal policies.”

Amazon’s external communications policy bans workers from commenting publicly on its business without corporate approval. The Seattle-based retailer added that it “will not allow employees to publicly disparage or misrepresent the company.”

Multiple reports in recent weeks have indicated that workers at dozens of Amazon warehouses and facilities have tested positive for COVID-19, which has sickened more than 584,000 people in the United States and killed at least 23,700. The company has also confirmed several coronavirus cases at Amazon facilities.

In late March, 15 workers at the company’s Staten Island, N.Y., warehouse participated in a demonstration that sought to call out Amazon’s workplace conditions after an employee at the facility tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Christian Smalls, who led the employee walkout, was fired shortly afterward, but Amazon attributed his termination to his receipt of “multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines.” (Smalls, Amazon said, had come into contact with a worker who tested positive for COVID-19 and was told to stay home with pay for 14 days.)

Last week, five U.S. senators — including former Democratic presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand — penned a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos inquiring about Smalls’ firing. They also expressed concerns about short supplies of personal protective equipment following reports that the retailer had masks and gloves only in “limited quantities.”

An Amazon spokesperson told FN last week, “We have enough supply of masks for everyone in our operations network and grocery stores to last a few weeks and continue to procure more. There is a mask shortage in the world right now, so naturally we are being deliberate in our daily distributions.”

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