Amazon Deploys Temperature Checks and Face Masks After Workers Protest

Amazon will roll out temperature checks and face masks for staff at all its U.S. and European warehouses and Whole Foods stores by early next week.
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Amazon.com  (AMZN) - Get Report will roll out temperature checks and face masks for staff at all its U.S. and European warehouses and Whole Foods stores by early next week, as the internet retailing giant contends with workers who have complained about unsafe conditions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dave Clark, the Seattle-based company's senior vice president of worldwide operations, said Amazon began temperature checks at select sites around the U.S. "in an effort to ensure that employees and support staff are healthy when they arrive at work."

Concerns about unsafe working conditions have sparked protests and job actions at several Amazon facilities around the country. 

Amazon fired a worker who led a strike at the online retailing giant’s warehouse in Staten Island, New York, over safety conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. 

New York State Attorney General Letitia James called the firing of Chris Smalls “immoral and inhumane” and said her office was “considering all legal options."

A number of Whole Foods employees also conducted "sick out" on Tuesday to protest what they see as inadequate working conditions.

In his blog post, Clark said that anyone registering a temperature over the CDC-recommended 100.4F will be asked to return home and only come back to work after they’ve gone three days without a fever.

"We are now temperature checking more than 100,000 employees per day," Clark said. "The complete rollout of temperature checks across our entire U.S. and European operations network and Whole Foods Market stores is expected by early next week, at which point we will be testing hundreds of thousands of people daily."

Clark said that millions of masks Amazon ordered weeks ago are now arriving, and are being distributed as quickly as possible. Masks will be available as soon as today in some locations and in all locations by early next week, he said.

Amazon is also conducting daily audits of the new health and safety measures.

"With over 1,000 sites around the world, and so many measures and precautions rapidly rolled out over the past several weeks, there may be instances where we don’t get it perfect, but I can assure you that’s just what they’ll be—exception," he said.

Amazon said last month it would hire an additional 100,000 workers as online orders soared due to the coronavirus pandemic. The company has already hired more than 80,000 people into these roles and has spent more than $150 million to support workers, Clark said. 

"We're glad that they are beginning to take our advice and meet workers' demands," said Dania Rajendra, director of the Athena coalition. "And there's a long way to go between what workers are saying and what where we are now." 

Shares of Amazon were up slightly to $1,913.73.