Amazon Fires Worker Who Led Protest Over Coronavirus Safety Conditions

Amazon fires Chris Smalls, the worker who led a strike at the online retailing giant’s warehouse in Staten Island, New York.
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Amazon.com  (AMZN) - Get Report fired the worker who led a strike at the online retailing giant’s warehouse in Staten Island, New York, over safety conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chris Smalls led a protest of workers who questioned Amazon’s decision to keep the warehouse operating despite news of a confirmed case of the coronavirus there last week.

“Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our families, and our communities safe,” Smalls said in a statement. “I am outraged and disappointed, but I’m not shocked. As usual, Amazon would rather sweep a problem under the rug than act to keep workers and working communities safe.” 

Smalls, an assistant manager at the facility, said over the weekend that workers wanted "the business closed down and sanitized before we return.”

About 60 workers took part in Monday’s protest, according to reports. Amazon disputed that number, saying 15 people walked out at the warehouse.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James called the firing of Smalls “immoral and inhumane.” She said her office was “considering all legal options.” She also sad she would call on the National Labor Relations Board to investigate.

Amazon confirmed it fired Smalls, saying he violated safety regulations

“Mr. Smalls received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines and putting the safety of others at risk,” Amazon said in a statement. 

Smalls “was asked to remain home with pay for 14 days, which is a measure we’re taking at sites around the world. Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came on site today, March 30, further putting the teams at risk,” the company said.

Separately, employees at Whole Foods are planning a "sick out" Tuesday to protest what they see as inadequate working conditions at the Amazon subsidiary amid the coronavirus pandemic.