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Lawmakers push for Amazon to close warehouses affected by COVID-19

Additional safety protocols are needed to protect workers and the public, New York lawmakers say

Photo (c) Cindy Shebley - Getty Images
Amazon is facing pressure to do more to protect its workers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. 

On Wednesday, a group of New York legislators, unions, and Amazon employees sent a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos asking for improvements in the company’s handling of the health crisis as it pertains to worker safety. 

“You claim to have adopted a number of practices to sanitize worksites and protect workers,” the letter says. “But a compelling number of workers have come forward -- and even run the incredible personal risk of walking off the job -- to report that the actual situation in warehouses does not match Amazon’s public relations statements. Your workers deserve to have full protections and to be confident that they are not carrying COVID-19 home to their families.”

Accusations of unsafe conditions

In the letter, lawmakers raised concerns that Amazon’s warehouse conditions aren’t in line with current safety and social distancing guidelines. 

Workers have reported that the “circumstances of their work make it impossible to comply with public health protocols - reporting crowded spaces, a required rate of work that does not allow for proper sanitizing of work spaces, and empty containers meant to hold sanitizing wipes,” the group said. 

To address these concerns, the lawmakers want Amazon to close its warehouses until stronger protections are put in place. 

“Your workers deserve to have full protections and to be confident that they are not carrying COVID-19 home to their families. And the safety of your workers also impacts the safety of everyone who touches or receives packages once they leave your warehouses.” 

Amazon calls accusations ‘unfounded’

This isn’t the first letter Bezos has received on the matter. Last 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. 

Amazon officials called the accusations “simply unfounded” and said it’s “working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable.” 

In response to the most recent letter from lawmakers, Amazon again called the accusations “unfounded” and added that it’s implemented a number of new safety measures at its sites in an effort to protect employees during the health crisis. 

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our teams,” a company spokesperson told CNBC. “Since the early days of this situation, we have worked closely with health authorities to proactively respond, ensuring we continue to serve customers while taking care of our associates and teams.”

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