Amazon warehouse workers are outraged after a coworker tested positive for COVID-19 and they weren’t notified


Bobbi Johnson, a employee at an Amazon warehouse south of Detroit, first noticed the rumors on Facebook over the weekend. Kelly McIntosh-Butler, one other employee on the facility, heard about them on Monday from her daughter, who works at one other Amazon warehouse close by. But it wasn’t till Tuesday, when Johnson and others confronted somebody from human assets within the break room, that they acquired affirmation that somebody on the facility had examined optimistic for COVID-19.

Six employees on the sortation middle DTW5 say they solely realized of the case from coworkers or after McIntosh-Butler, pissed off with the shortage of transparency, tipped off Local Four News, which acquired confirmation from Amazon Tuesday. In the data vacuum, they’re left questioning whether or not they’ve been uncovered and whether or not it’s protected to proceed working. Last week, Johnson’s son, who has bronchial asthma, started having hassle respiratory. This week, her daughter developed a dry cough. She hasn’t been in a position to get both examined, and he or she worries she was an unknowing vector for COVID-19. She determined to remain dwelling, with out pay, to look after her youngsters and keep away from doubtlessly spreading the virus.

“They should have closed that building down and sanitized that whole building before they let us come in,” Johnson tells The Verge. “And they should have given everyone a robocall, because you never know if you bumped into that person in the bathroom or anything, because not only are you putting your life at risk, you’re putting the people that you come in contact with’s lives at stake.”

Workers at DTW5 say that after they confronted administration, they had been advised that 5 employees who had been involved with the contaminated individual had been knowledgeable. Workers really feel that’s removed from ample. Their jobs typically take them to completely different elements of the warehouse they usually share break rooms, restrooms, and gear, making it tough to say exactly who might have been uncovered. Many are balancing the necessity to obtain a paycheck with potential dangers to themselves and their family members, and with out being notified of potential publicity, they concern they’re making choices in the dead of night.

“Here I am, a week after being exposed to it, and I’ve already been to work three other times, three other days breathing on people,” McIntosh-Butler says. “This is how this thing is getting out of control right now.”

Several employees at DTW5 say they hear hacking coughs, sneezes, and different potential signs within the facility, however nobody is being screened upon arrival. Though the employees have been advised cleansing has been ramped up, they are saying they’ve seen no proof of it, and that sanitary wipes and different cleansing materials is commonly briefly provide or nonexistent. Yesterday, one other employee on the facility mentioned she was experiencing COVID-like signs, hasn’t been in a position to get examined, and has determined to self-quarantine, in response to screenshots shared with The Verge.

Workers have been identified with COVID-19 at 10 Amazon warehouses within the US up to now. At lots of them, employees solely confirmed the an infection after confronting administration or listening to information stories. In Jacksonville, Florida, employees realized of a coronavirus case at their warehouse from the local news. At a New York City sortation middle final week, the primary identified case of an Amazon warehouse employee contracting COVID-19, Amazon despatched day shift employees dwelling whereas the corporate disinfected the ability, however employees on the next shift solely realized of the case after getting a textual content from a employees’ group. When the evening shift arrived, they refused to work, shutting down the ability. On Tuesday, an Amazon employee at a Staten Island fulfillment center examined optimistic, and once more workers received no email, text, or call from Amazon.

At the MDW2 warehouse in Joliet, Illinois, Stephanie Haynes heard by way of coworkers that somebody who works close to her had examined optimistic. She approached somebody from human assets, who confirmed it.

“Me and some other ladies went to human resources and confronted them about it, and we thought they’ll do something as far as shutting the building down or doing a lot of cleaning,” Haynes mentioned throughout a name organized by Athena, a coalition of teams important of Amazon. Instead, administration claimed to have checked the cameras and located that the employees had not been shut sufficient to the contaminated individual to be at risk, Haynes says, and advised the employees to proceed coming in. The constructing wasn’t shut down — administration advised employees the ability can be cleaned as they labored.

Haynes, who has bronchial asthma and whose husband has diabetes, placing them at greater danger from COVID-19, determined to self-quarantine anyway. Though Amazon has mentioned it should present two weeks’ paid go away for any employees identified with COVID-19 or positioned in quarantine, except the corporate calls to advocate she ought to quarantine, her time away is unpaid. “Amazon needs to do a lot more to protect us,” she says. “We need to know how they’re going to handle things when somebody is in a warehouse and gets sick.”

Amazon has the capability to shortly notify employees. The firm ceaselessly messages all employees at a given facility for issues like schedule modifications or necessary time beyond regulation. When California shut down all non-essential companies final week, Amazon employees acquired automated calls telling them they had been important and may proceed coming to their warehouses. “You guys call us to tell us that we’re getting extra pay or that we can come in, but nobody was notified that there was a confirmed case?” says Johnson at DTW5.

Asked concerning the lack of notification for employees at DTW5 and elsewhere, Amazon mentioned solely that it had made staff conscious of confirmed circumstances and requested anybody in shut contact with identified people to self-quarantine for 14 days with pay. “We are supporting the individuals, following guidelines from local officials, and are taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of all the employees at our sites,” the corporate mentioned in an announcement.

Millions of Americans advised to remain dwelling have turned to Amazon as a way of getting fundamental requirements, and the corporate has embraced its function as an “essential service,” scaling up operations as governments order different companies closed. But the scenario places Amazon employees in a tough place, pressured to decide on between going with out a paycheck or venturing into crowded warehouses the place many really feel insufficient security precautions are being taken. On Facebook, employees have begun altering their profiles to learn, “I can’t stay home, I work at Amazon.”

More than 1,500 employees have signed a petition calling on the corporate to enhance security measures, present sick go away no matter a COVID-19 analysis, and shut down services the place employees check optimistic for cleansing. The firm says it has applied new cleansing procedures and brought steps to keep away from folks crowding collectively, however employees at DTW5 and elsewhere say cleansing provides are sometimes missing, the tempo of labor doesn’t go away them time to make use of them, and their jobs nonetheless require them being in shut proximity to one another. While Amazon shut down a returns-processing warehouse in Kentucky Wednesday after three employees examined optimistic, it has up to now refused to shut services extra integral to its distribution community. In Italy and Spain, the corporate’s choice to maintain warehouses operating regardless of infections prompted protests and absenteeism.

Amazon, in the meantime, is struggling to employees as much as meet surging demand. Last week, the corporate raised pay by $2 per hour, elevated pay for time beyond regulation, and introduced plans to rent 100,000 employees. Amazon additionally modified its insurance policies to permit employees to take limitless day off with out pay (beforehand they might have been fired for taking greater than a specific amount), and even earlier than Amazon employees started getting contaminated, many had been selecting to remain dwelling or go away early, fearing an outbreak was inevitable. As orders flood in, supply occasions for some objects now stretch to a month or extra.

“A lot of people are coming to work, working two or three hours, and leaving because they’re thinking overexposure is scary,” McIntosh-Butler says. “Management is mad, and if they tell anybody that we had a positive case, they’re thinking people aren’t even going to show up to work.”

But at DTW5, the truth that employees needed to confront administration over rumors to study a coworker examined optimistic has solely heightened their nervousness. One employee mentioned that after HR confirmed the case on Tuesday, greater than 100 employees walked out, and now she’s weighing whether or not to work her subsequent shift. She must make hire, however she’s additionally in frequent contact together with her father, who has cystic fibrosis, doubtlessly making him extra weak to COVID-19. Another employee mentioned that as a single mom of three, she will’t afford to go with out a paycheck, but additionally fears getting the virus and infecting her children. “It’s very scary,” she says.

McIntosh-Butler’s husband has seen work dry up in the course of the pandemic, however she’s solely going to work yet another shift this week after which keep away. She’ll put on a bandana over her face, as many employees on the facility have begun doing, regardless that she is aware of it gained’t do a lot.

“I’ll have my $200 check and they can have the rest,” McIntosh-Butler says. “I just think that it’s too dangerous right now, because I don’t know who I’m coming into contact with, and HR isn’t taking it seriously.”