Washington, March 21 (IANS) Four US Senators, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, have sent a letter to Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, asking him to reply on how the company is keeping its warehouse staff safe as new coronavirus (COVID-19) spread in the US.
An Amazon warehouse worker was tested positive for COVID-19 at the company’s Queens, New York facility this week.
Several warehouse employees have told CNN Business they feel the company should be doing more to shield those at the core of its business who can’t do their jobs from home.
“Amazon is already struggling to meet demand, and some employees feel they’re being unfairly endangered by working in warehouses filled with other workers. It’s unclear how deliveries could continue if the workers who sort, pack, and ship Americans’ goods start getting sick in droves,” reports The Atlantic.
In a letter sent to Bezos on Friday, US Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sanders and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said. “Any failure of Amazon to keep its workers safe does not just put their employees at risk, it puts the entire country at risk”.
“The virus that causes COVID-19 can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel,” claimed the letter.
“That means that Americans who are taking every precaution, staying home and practicing social distancing, might risk getting infected with COVID-19 because of Amazon’s decision to prioritize efficiency and profits over the safety and well-being of its workforce”.
The senators have asked Bezos to reply to the letter by March 26. They have asked several questions like what preventative steps is Amazon taking to ensure its employees do not contract COVID-19, will Amazon agree to cover the cost of testing for COVID-19 for its employees, Will Amazon suspend rate-based write-ups until the threat of COVID-19 is mitigated and will Amazon provide paid sick leave to its employees regardless of diagnosis, among others.
In a statement to The Verge, Amazon said the accusations in the letter are “simply unfounded”.
“Our employees are heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items they need in this crisis. We are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable,” the company said.
Earlier, two office workers at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The company has suggested employees to work from home.
Amazon announced last week that all employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in quarantine would receive two weeks of sick pay.