Senators Want to Know if Amazon Retaliated Against Whistle-Blowers

Democratic senators on Thursday questioned whether Amazon retaliated against whistle-blowers when it fired four employees who raised concerns about the spread of coronavirus in the company’s warehouses.

“In order to understand how the termination of employees that raised concerns about health and safety conditions did not constitute retaliation for whistle-blowing, we are requesting information about Amazon’s policies regarding grounds for employee discipline and termination,” the letter said.

The letter was also signed by Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, as well as Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand, Edward J. Markey, Richard Blumenthal, Kamala Harris and Tammy Baldwin. It asked Amazon if it tracked unionization efforts in its warehouses and whether it tracked employees who participated in protests or spoke to the news media.

An Amazon spokeswoman said: “These individuals were not terminated for talking publicly about working conditions or safety but, rather, for violating — often repeatedly — policies, such as intimidation, physical distancing and more.”

She added that while Amazon supported employees’ right to criticize or protest working conditions, “that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies.”

“We look forward to explaining in more detail in our response to the senators’ letter,” the spokeswoman said.

Despite the sophistication of Amazon’s vast e-commerce business, it depends on warehouse workers to keep shipments flowing, and many of those workers fear their warehouses are contaminated by the coronavirus.

In March, Amazon fired Chris Smalls, a worker in its Staten Island facility who had organized a protest to demand stronger safety protocols there. Amazon said Mr. Smalls had violated a quarantine order to attend the protest.

“Warehouse workers have been under incredible threat,” Ms. Cunningham said in an interview Wednesday evening. “We wanted to give space for warehouse workers to be able to talk openly and honestly about the conditions they were facing and why they felt so unsafe.”

In late April, Amazon fired Bashir Mohamed, a warehouse worker in Shakopee, Minn. Mr. Mohamed said he had raised concerns about workers’ inability to remain socially distant inside the warehouse. Amazon said Mr. Mohamed had violated several policies, including one that required workers to follow social distancing guidelines.

Source link