Amazon warehouse workers are outraged after a colleague tested positive for COVID-19 and they were not told
Bobbi Johnson, a worker in an Amazon warehouse south of Detroit, first saw the rumors over the weekend on Facebook. Kelly McIntosh-Butler, another employee of the facility, heard from her daughter on Monday who works in another Amazon warehouse nearby. But it wasn’t until Tuesday, when Johnson and others confronted a human from the break room personnel, that they received confirmation that someone at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19.
Six employees of the DTW5 sorting center say they only heard the case from colleagues or after McIntosh-Butler, frustrated by the lack of transparency, tipped Local Four News, which was received confirmation from Amazon Tuesday. In the information vacuum, they wonder if they have been exposed and if it is safe to continue working. Last week, Johnson’s son, who has asthma, had trouble breathing. This week her daughter developed a dry cough. She has not had either tested and is concerned that she was an ignorant vector for COVID-19. She decided to stay home without payment to take care of her children and prevent her from spreading the virus.
“They should have closed that building and cleaned the whole building before they let us in,” says Johnson The Verge. “And they should have given everyone a robocall, because you never know if you bumped into that person in the bathroom or something, because not only are you putting your life in danger, you’re putting the people you come in contact with at stake.”
Employees at DTW5 say that after being confronted with management, they were told that five workers who had been in contact with the infected person had been notified. Employees consider this far from sufficient. Their work often takes them to different parts of the warehouse, and they share break rooms, toilets, and equipment, making it difficult to say exactly who may have been exposed. Many balance the need to receive a salary with potential risks to themselves and their loved ones, and without being notified of potential exposure, they fear making decisions in the dark.
“Here I am, a week after being exposed to it, and I’ve been working three times, breathing on people for three other days,” says McIntosh-Butler. “This is how this thing is getting out of hand.”
Several DTW5 employees say they hear coughs, sneezes, and other potential symptoms in the facility, but no one is screened on arrival. Although workers have been told cleaning has been stepped up, they say they have seen no evidence of it, and often have little or no sanitary wipes and other cleaning materials. Yesterday, another facility employee said she was experiencing COVID-like symptoms, was unable to be tested, and decided to quarantine herself, according to screenshots shared with The edge.
COVID-19 has been established for employees 10 Amazon warehouses in the US so far. For many of them, workers only confirmed the infection after confronting management or hearing news reports. In Jacksonville, Florida, workers from a coronavirus store in their warehouse heard of the local news. At one New York City sorting center last week, the first known case of an Amazon warehouse worker contracting COVID-19, sent Amazon day shift workers home while the company disinfected the facility, but workers on the next shift only heard of the case after receiving a text from a worker got ‘group. When the night shift arrived, they refused to work, closing the facility. On Tuesday, an Amazon employee visits a Staten Island Fulfillment Center tested positive, and again employees have not received an email, SMS or call from Amazon.
In the MDW2 warehouse in Joliet, IllinoisStephanie Haynes heard through colleagues that someone working near her had tested positive. She approached someone from human resources who confirmed it.
“Me and a few other ladies went to human resources and confronted them about it, and we thought they would do something about closing the building or doing a lot of cleaning,” Haynes said during a phone call organized by Athena, a coalition of groups that criticize Amazon. Instead, management claimed they checked the cameras and found that the workers had not been close enough to the infected person to be in danger, Haynes says, telling the workers to keep entering. The building was not closed – management told employees the facility would be cleaned while they were working.
Haynes, who has asthma and whose husband has diabetes, putting them at higher risk for COVID-19, decided to quarantine himself. While Amazon has said it will offer two weeks of paid leave to employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantined unless the company calls to recommend quarantining, its spare time is unpaid. “Amazon needs to do much more to protect us,” she says. “We need to know how they handle things when someone is in a warehouse and gets sick.”
Amazon has the capacity to quickly notify employees. The company regularly sends a message to all employees of a particular facility for things like schedule changes or mandatory overtime. When California closed all nonessential companies last week, Amazon workers received automated phone calls that they were essential and should keep coming to their warehouses. “You call us to tell us that we will be paid extra or that we can enter, but no one was informed that there was a confirmed case?” Johnson says on DTW5.
When asked about the lack of notification for employees at DTW5 and elsewhere, Amazon only said that it had notified employees of confirmed cases and asked everyone in close contact with diagnosed individuals to quarantine themselves for 14 days. “We support the individuals, according to the guidelines of local officials, and take extreme measures to ensure the safety of all workers at our locations,” the company said in a statement.
Millions of Americans told to stay at home have turned to Amazon as a means of meeting basic needs, and the company has embraced its role as an “essential service” by scaling up operations while governments commission other companies . But the situation puts Amazon workers in a difficult position, forced to choose between paying no wages or going into crowded warehouses where many feel that insufficient security measures are being taken. On Facebook, employees have started changing their profile to read, “I can’t stay at home, I work at Amazon.”
More than 1,500 workers have one petition the company is called upon to improve safety measures, provide sick leave regardless of a diagnosis of COVID-19, and close facilities where workers test positive for cleaning. The company says it has implemented new cleaning procedures and taken steps to prevent people from getting together, but employees of DTW5 and elsewhere say cleaning supplies are often lacking, the pace of work doesn’t give them time to use them and their jobs still need they are close together. While Amazon one warehouse for return processing in Kentucky, Wednesday after three employees tested positive, it has so far refused to close facilities that are more integrated into its distribution network. In Italy and Spain, the company has decided to keep warehouses up and running despite infected infections protests and absenteeism.
Amazon, meanwhile, is struggling with its staff to meet rising demand. Last week, the company increased its salary by $ 2 per hour, increased its overtime salary, and announced plans to hire 100,000 workers. Amazon also changed its policy to allow employees to take unlimited time off without paying (previously they would have been fired for taking more than a certain amount), and even before Amazon workers became infected, many chose to stay at home. stay or leave early, fearing an outbreak was inevitable. As orders arrive, delivery times for some items now extend to a month or more.
“Many people come to work, work two or three hours, and leave because they think excessive exposure is scary,” says McIntosh-Butler. “The management is crazy and when they tell someone that we have a positive cause, they don’t think people will even show up to work.”
But at DTW5, the fact that employees had to confront management with rumors to learn that a colleague had tested positive only added to their fear. An employee said that after HR confirmed the case on Tuesday, more than 100 employees walked out, and she is now weighing whether she will work her next shift. She has to rent, but she also has a lot of contact with her father, who has cystic fibrosis, potentially making him more vulnerable to COVID-19. Another employee said that as a single mother of three, she cannot afford to go without a salary, but is also afraid of getting the virus and infecting her children. “It’s very scary,” she says.
McIntosh-Butler’s husband has seen the work dry up during the pandemic, but she’s only going to work one shift this week and then stay away. She will wear a bandana over her face, as many workers in the facility have started doing, even though she knows it won’t do much.
“I get my $ 200 check and they can get the rest,” said McIntosh-Butler. “I just think it’s too dangerous right now because I don’t know who I’m in contact with, and HR isn’t taking it seriously.”