Amazon strike leader fired following walkout over coronavirus measures
Dave Lee in San Francisco
An Amazon worker has been fired after being among the leaders of a strike over an alleged lack of protection from coronavirus held at the company’s facilities in New York state on Monday.
“Today, I stood with my co-workers because conditions at JFK8 are legitimately dangerous for workers and the public,” Chris Smalls said in a statement distributed by Athena, a workers rights group. “Amazon thinks this might shut me up, but I’m going to keep speaking up.”
Amazon confirmed the sacking, but said it was over safety violations.
“Mr Smalls received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines and putting the safety of others at risk,” a spokeswoman said. “He was also found to have had close contact with a diagnosed associate with a confirmed case of Covid-19 and was asked to remain home with pay for 14 days, which is a measure we’re taking at sites around the world.”
Speaking to CNBC, Mr Smalls called the explanation “ridiculous”. The number of those participating in the strike is under dispute, with organisers claiming more than 50 walked off the job, while Amazon suggested it was 15.
Elsewhere, workers for Instacart, the app-based grocery delivery service, said they too would stop working in protest at low rates of pay and what they feel is a lack of adequate safety measures.
Instacart said it had put in place new measures to keep its shoppers safe, and to support sick workers if they are diagnosed.
“Today, we saw 40 per cent more shoppers on the platform compared to the same day and time last week,” the company said. “Over the last 72 hours, more groceries were sold on our platform than ever before.”