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Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders demand Amazon explain whistleblower firings

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9 Democratic senators are calling on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to offer info on the firing of employees who referred to as for better protections from COVID-19. In a letter, the senators cite 4 employees who had been fired after elevating issues about security situations on the firm’s warehouses. Amazon has disputed that the firings had been retaliatory, citing different coverage violations.

“Given the clear public historical past of those 4 employees’ advocacy on behalf of well being and security situations for employees in Amazon warehouses previous their terminations, and Amazon’s imprecise public statements concerning violations of ‘inner insurance policies,’ we’re looking for further info to know precisely what these inner insurance policies are,” the senators wrote.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) signed the letter.

In late March, Amazon fired Christian Smalls after he organized a walkout on the firm’s Staten Island warehouse, JFK8. Amazon claimed Smalls was fired for violating quarantine by attending the walkout, however Smalls was solely positioned on quarantine after he began calling for better security precautions, and different co-workers with far better publicity to COVID-19 had been by no means positioned on quarantine. A memo later obtained by Vice revealed Amazon executives planning to smear Smalls and make him “the face of the complete union/organizing motion.”

On Tuesday, The Verge reported {that a} employee at JFK8 had died of COVID-19. At the least 35 employees on the facility have examined optimistic for the novel coronavirus, based on alerts despatched to employees. Two different Amazon warehouse employees, each in California, have died of the virus. Amazon employees at over 130 services have examined optimistic for COVID-19, based on alerts tallied by employees. The corporate has declined to launch statistics on infections.

“Amazon has closed some warehouses for 48 hours for deep cleansing after staff take a look at optimistic for coronavirus,” the senators wrote, “however these security responses haven’t been adequate.”

The letter additionally cites the firing of Bashir Mohamed, a warehouse employee in Minnesota who referred to as for better security measures. Amazon mentioned he was fired for security violations and different coverage infractions. Staff at different warehouses say social distancing pointers are being enforced in ways in which goal employees who elevate security issues.

Amazon additionally fired two person expertise designers, Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham, after their group, Amazon Staff for Local weather Justice, started organizing a web based panel the place tech employees may hear from warehouse employees. Tons of of tech employees subsequently organized a sick-out in protest of the firings and warehouse situations. Final week, Amazon senior engineer and vice chairman Tim Bray resigned over the firings of whistleblowers.

Requested concerning the letter, an Amazon spokesperson disputed that the firings had been retaliatory. “These people weren’t terminated for speaking publicly about working situations or security, however relatively, for violating—usually repeatedly—insurance policies, comparable to intimidation, bodily distancing and extra,” the corporate mentioned in a press release. “We assist each staff’ proper to criticize or protest their employer’s working situations, however that doesn’t include blanket immunity towards any and all inner insurance policies. We sit up for explaining in additional element in our response to the Senators’ letter.”

The senators are asking Amazon to specify these insurance policies and make clear its course of for terminating staff. They’re additionally asking whether or not Amazon tracks potential organizing at warehouses, because it does with Whole Foods, or paperwork which employees take part in walkouts and protests.

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