Amazon workers test positive for COVID-19 at ten U.S. warehouses

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SEATTLE – The U.S. coronavirus outbreak has unfold to at the least 10 Amazon warehouses, infecting employees racing to ship huge volumes of packages for customers leery of leaving their properties to buy.

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In the previous few days, Amazon employees examined optimistic for COVID-19, the illness attributable to the novel virus, two in New York City; Shepherdsville, Kentucky.; Jacksonville, Florida; Katy, Texas.; Brownstown, Michigan.; Oklahoma City; Moreno Valley, California; Joliet, Illinois; and Wallingford, Connecticut, based on Amazon and native media stories. In some circumstances, Amazon shut down services for cleansing, and a few co-workers who had been in shut contact with their contaminated colleagues have been quarantined.

Just final week, warehouse employees sounded alarms that the corporate shouldn’t be doing sufficient to guard them from the virus. That got here after employees at Amazon warehouses in Spain and Italy examined optimistic for the virus. Since then, greater than 1,500 employees from world wide have signed a petition that calls on the corporate to take extra steps to make sure security within the office.

Some employees complained that Amazon pushes them to fulfill the per-hour fee at which it desires orders fulfilled, a follow that they fear discourages protected sanitary practices comparable to washing fingers after a cough or sneeze. Others have complained about “stand-up” conferences, the place employees stand shoulder-to-shoulder at first of every shift.

The new outbreaks at Amazon’s U.S. services come days after the web retail large introduced plans to rent 100,000 new employees to assist deal with the flood of orders which have clogged its system. That surprising surge has rendered Amazon unable to inventory and ship family staples to many purchasers who had come to depend on the corporate’s comfort.

(Amazon chief govt Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

“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,” Amazon spokeswoman Lisa Levandowski stated in an emailed assertion.

The firm has not too long ago adopted new insurance policies for its warehouses together with extra usually cleansing door handles, stairway handrails, contact screens and extra, Levandowski stated. It’s nixed stand-up conferences, staggered begin and break instances to help social distancing and suspended screening employees as they depart to enhance the circulation of employees, she stated.

Amazon, although, is struggling to get employees all of the safety it desires them to have. The firm positioned orders for “millions of face masks” to present to staff and contractors who can not earn a living from home, Bezos wrote in a letter to staff Saturday. Because of the worldwide scarcity of these masks, although, only a few of these orders have been crammed, he wrote.

And whereas Amazon permits warehouse employees to take day without work in the event that they’re involved, Bezos additionally expects the corporate’s warehouses to maintain working, saying within the letter that a lot of “the essential work we do” requires staff to clock in on the firm’s warehouses, in its supply autos and extra.

Amazon has greater than 175 warehouses across the globe, together with greater than 110 in North America. Levandowski declined to say if employees at another Amazon facility have examined optimistic for COVID-19.

Sweetening its new job gives, Amazon elevated pay for hourly staff by April by $2 an hour within the United States, 2 kilos an hour within the United Kingdom, and about 2 euros an hour in elements of the European Union. The firm, which generated $280.5 billion in gross sales final 12 months, stated the pay hikes will price $350 million.

Despite the unfold of the coronavirus in Amazon’s U.S. warehouses, it most likely will discover employees for the brand new posts, stated Elaine Kwon, founding father of e-commerce administration and software program agency Kwontified and a former Amazon supervisor. With unemployment claims already hovering as companies shutter from the coronavirus fallout, laid off employees will want earnings to pay their rents and feed their households.

“Quite a few people will be willing to take the risk,” Kwon stated.

Amazon has lengthy had a contentious relationship with some warehouse employees, preventing efforts within the United States and overseas to unionize. The firm, which has practically 800,000 employees worldwide, most of whom work in its warehouses, has confronted criticism for harsh working situations, inadequate lavatory breaks and difficult-to-attain objectives.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has denounced the corporate for paying subsistence wages to its warehouse employees. And after the corporate raised its minimal wage to $15 an hour in 2018, it caught warmth for taking away some bonuses and inventory grants for warehouse employees.

Last week, 4 U.S. senators — Sanders and three Democrats, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Robert Menendez of New Jersey — despatched Bezos a letter expressing concern that the corporate isn’t doing sufficient to guard its warehouse employees from the coronavirus outbreak.

“We write today to strongly urge you to prioritize the health, safety, and well-being of your employees who are also our constituents, friends, family, and neighbors,” the senators wrote.

The senators famous that Amazon might additionally put “the entire country at risk” if warehouse situations aren’t sanitary, as a result of the coronavirus can dwell for as much as 24 hours on cardboard and as much as three days on plastic and stainless-steel. They requested Bezos to reply to a collection of questions by Thursday.