As online retail behemoth Amazon is deluged with orders from people sequestered at home during the coronavirus pandemic, workers in at least eight of the company’s U.S. warehouses have contracted the disease in recent days.
The growing number of COVID-19 cases, as well as reports of questionable practices at Amazon facilities, have prompted employees and others to demand the company do more to protect its staff.
Since last week, Amazon warehouses in Staten Island and Queens, New York; Jacksonville, Florida.; Oklahoma City; Brownstown, Michigan; Katy, Texas; Wallingford, Connecticut; and Shepherdsville, Kentucky, have reported cases of COVID-19 among workers.
A company spokesperson told The Washington Post that Amazon was “supporting the individuals” who are affected, “following guidelines from local officials, and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of all the employees at our sites.”
This includes more regularly sanitizing door handles, handrails and touch screens; and staggering break times to allow for better social distancing, the spokesperson said.
Amazon workers say the company needs to do more to protect its people.
Hundreds of Amazon employees and contractors have signed an online petition expressing concern “about the company’s lack of protective measures” — and have asked for paid sick leave, child care pay and subsidies, and hazard pay, among other demands.
“While Amazon has made some limited coronavirus accommodations, it needs a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety of all of its workers and the larger public,” the petition reads.
“As the pandemic unfolds, the demand for home-delivery is increasing, leading to near peak-level volume across the network,” it continues. “As we continue to provide this valuable service to our communities, we must ensure that we are adequately protected.”
Amazon said last week that it intends to hire 100,000 more workers to help manage the onslaught of orders it’s been receiving during the pandemic.
“We are seeing a significant increase in demand, which means our labor needs are unprecedented for this time of year,” Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of operations, said in a recent memo, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Separately, Amazon said Monday that it had booted nearly 4,000 third-party sellers from its platform ― and removed more than a half-million product offerings ― because of price-gouging amid the coronavirus crisis.
“Amazon strictly prohibits sellers from exploiting an emergency by charging excessively high prices on products and shipping,” the company said in a blog post, adding it was “partnering directly with law enforcement agencies to combat price gougers and hold them accountable.”
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