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Amazon Workers in Staten Island Are Planning to Strike Over Coronavirus Safety Concerns

Amazon workers at the company’s Staten Island, N.Y. facility are reportedly preparing to strike.

According to a CNBC report, nearly 100 workers plan to walk out of the warehouse on Monday to call attention to a lack of protections provided for employees who have to come into work amidst the coronavirus pandemic. An employee at the facility tested positive for the coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, last week.

The worker is now under quarantine, and those who were in contact with the individual were asked to stay home for two weeks with pay. The facility, known as JFK8, remains open. Through their strike, the workers are hoping to pressure Amazon into closing the facility for a deep cleaning, CNBC says, with employees to receive pay while doors are shut. JFK8 employs about 4,500 workers and commands over 800,000 square feet of space.

Due to the company’s status an essential retailer, Amazon warehouses are remaining operational across even the states and localities that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus. The e-commerce behemoth has seen a spike in demand as panicked shoppers load up on household goods and shop online instead of in-store.

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Including the Staten Island facility, there have been reports of Amazon warehouse workers testing positive for COVID-19, across at least nine facilities in the United States. In some cases, local media reports indicate that facilities were closed temporarily for cleaning and that workers who came into contact with the infected employee (or employees) were placed in quarantine.

“We understand the past few weeks have been a very challenging time and we deeply value our employees as they serve the people in their communities in a way that very few can — delivering critical supplies directly to the doorsteps of people who need them,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “We believe direct communication is the best avenue to discuss feedback, and our teams onsite are speaking directly with employees each day to hear their questions and discuss options that are available in this ever changing environment.”

The company added that it has implemented daily temperature screenings in operations sites as an “additional preventative measure.”

Amazon has taken some heat as it works through members of its workforce contracting the coronavirus — including for its policies regarding COVID-19-related paid leave.

Amazon currently offers two weeks of paid sick leave to employees who test positive for COVID-19 or are placed under quarantine. After the two-week period, workers can take additional leave without pay through the end of April. The e-commerce giant has also set aside $25 million to establish an emergency fund for certain delivery service partners.

But last week, 15 attorneys general sent a letter to the e-tailer asking the company to “adopt a more generous paid leave policy” for its workers and independent contractors, as well as for employees of its Whole Foods grocery division. The attorneys general said in their letter that the e-tailer’s current policy is “insufficient.”

“By limiting paid sick leave to only those employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have been placed into quarantine, [Amazon and Whole Foods] are placing their other employees, their customers, and the public at large at significant risk of exposure to COVID-19,” the letter reads.

As it seeks to keep up with coronavirus-related demand, Amazon announced earlier this month that it would hire 100,000 additional employees, including delivery drivers and warehouse workers. The company is also spending $350 million to boost pay by $2 an hour for hourly workers in the U.S. and Canada.

Globally, there have been over 713,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus with more than 33,000 dead, according to Johns Hopkins data from Sunday. In the U.S., over 137,000 people have been infected with the virus; more than 2,400 fatalities have been recorded.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include a statement from Amazon.

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