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Lawmakers call on Amazon to do more to protect workers during the coronavirus crisis

More than a dozen lawmakers believe the company is falling short when it comes worker safety

Photo (c) LawrenceGlass - Getty Images
Lawmakers want to know exactly what Amazon is doing to ensure the safety of its warehouse workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Friday, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ilhan Omar asked to know more about the company’s health and safety measures at its sites.

"No employee, especially those who work for one of the wealthiest corporations in the world, should be forced to work in unsafe conditions," the lawmakers wrote in the letter, which was co-signed by a dozen other House representatives. 

In recent years, Sanders and Omar have both raised concerns that Amazon isn’t paying or treating its workers fairly. Now, the lawmakers want to know if the e-commerce giant is doing enough to slow the spread of the coronavirus and keep its workers safe. 

As of Sunday, workers in at least 17 of Amazon’s U.S. warehouses have tested positive for the virus, according to Reuters. Amazon said it has been cleaning the affected facilities and assured the public that infected employees have been quarantined. 

Pushing for more information

In the letter sent Friday, the lawmakers took aim at Amazon’s “proven record” of insufficient health and safety measures. 

“Even prior to the dire global health crisis, these facilities have a proven record of high health and safety standard violations, and Amazon has failed to provide any substantive response or solutions to those violations,” the lawmakers wrote. “Given that the company has announced plans to hire 100,000 new warehouse workers and institute mandatory overtime, we are growing more concerned that Amazon does not possess an adequate internal pandemic preparedness and response plan.”

Sanders and Omar requested specific information on what the company is doing to ensure that employees adhere to the CDC’s social distancing guidelines, what Amazon’s emergency response plan is, and whether workers’ safety is a priority during this unprecedented time. 

“We ask that you intensify your efforts to protect the health and safety of your warehouse workers. No employee, especially those who work for one of the wealthiest corporations in the world, should be forced to work in unsafe conditions,” the lawmakers wrote.

Amazon responds

Amazon officials have responded to accusations of unfair treatment of warehouse workers by calling them “simply unfounded.” 

“Our employees are heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items they need in this crisis,” the company said. “Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it is not easy as supplies are limited, but we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable.” 

Amazon added that it’s gone to “extreme measures” to ensure the safety of its employees. Those measures include “tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available, and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances,” the company said. 

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