In a letter to Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, four Democratic U.S. senators on Friday expressed concern that the world’s largest online retailer did not provide adequate assistance to warehouse workers during the coronavirus outbreak, according to a copy of the Reuters report.
The lawmakers, led by Cory Booker and including presidential nominee Bernie Sanders, referred to a news story claiming disinfectant wipes and sanitizers at Amazon’s warehouses were in short supply. The letter said staff faced low-performance scores if they took enough time after coughing or sneezing on the job to wash their hands, also citing a news article.
Any failure by Amazon to keep its staff safe does not only threaten their employees, but it also puts the whole country at risk,” the letter said, adding that the virus could live up to 24 hours on cardboard such as Amazon packaging, according to media reports.
Amazon said the accusations “are clearly baseless” regarding its activities.
The letter from the senators illustrates Amazon’s tremendous pressure to keep warehouses, staff and the public secure when shipping goods to customers worldwide, some of whom are under lockdown. This also illustrates continuing conflicts between a corporation whose president is the richest individual in the world and Democrats who have long protested its working and compensation conditions.
Senators Robert Menendez and Sherrod Brown were both signatories.
Amazon based in Seattle has seen a market rush as a consequence of the coronavirus outbreak. Earlier this week, it said it would only receive essential supplies at its US and UK warehouses and other European warehouses until April 5 to free up inventory space for high-demand medical and household products.
Amazon said while protecting its workers, it was supporting communities in need. If someone sneezes or coughs, it has staggered work hours, disrupted standup meetings during shifts and needed handwash. The organization said workers have allotted time to wash their hands whenever they want, without harming their results.
“We have taken drastic steps to keep customers safe, triple on deep cleaning, obtain available security equipment, and adjust processes to ensure that those in our buildings maintain safe distances,” Amazon said.
The letter from the senators asked the organization to answer multiple written questions by March 26, including whether it would agree to cover the COVID19 test costs of staff, and if it would give paid sick leave to workers not infected with the virus.
The organization also provided other perks for contagion-fearing staff, such as extended unpaid days off for seasonal workers until the end of March.
The coronavirus has caused at least 11,311 deaths worldwide, mainly in Italy and China. There was a staff at Amazon’s headquarters who contracted the disease, as well as staff in Europe, where on Wednesday more than 200 workers organized a protest calling for a distribution center to be closed in Saran, south of Paris.
Amazon said this week it was shutting a distribution station in New York City for a clean-up period after a worker tested positive for the virus there. The senators asked if Amazon would offer similar immediate shutdowns in the future should the same conditions occur at facilities.
Amazon, one of the largest U.S. employers, has opened more than 500,000 full-time and parttime positions throughout the country, many for fulfillment and distribution roles this week it said it would recruit 100,000 more U.S. warehouse and distribution staff during the outbreak to deal with the surge in online orders.
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