Six Amazon warehouses across the country have reported having an employee that has tested positive for the coronavirus according to Fox News.
Amazon determined in some cases that those who worked closely with the infected employees should quarantine themselves as well. Amazon shutdown portions of their delivery process to ensure particular areas received an enhanced cleaning. At a time where there in an increase of online shopping activity, warehouses in Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, New York, Florida and Kentucky will be experiencing delays as warehouses are evacuated for cleaning and employees are home in isolation.
Amazon recently received attention for a petition that contained the signatures of 1,500 Amazon employees, insisting on better equipment and a safer work environment. The workers claimed that incentivizing a “rate per hour” diminishes the importance of cleanliness and puts the employees and customers at risk.
The petition also accused Amazon of insisting that employees stand should to shoulder, despite worldwide recommendations to practice social distancing.
Amazon spokeswoman Lisa Levandowski refuted the claim that Amazon is not participating in social distancing and claimed in a statement that Amazon has adjusted work schedules and flow of employees to help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
Fox News reported further on Amazon’s recent struggles.
Amazon, though, is struggling to get workers all the protection it wants them to have. The company placed orders for “millions of face masks” to give to employees and contractors who cannot work from home, Bezos wrote in a letter to employees Saturday. Because of the global shortage of those masks, though, very few of those orders have been filled, he wrote.
And while Amazon allows warehouse staff to take time off if they’re concerned, Bezos also expects the company’s warehouses to keep operating, saying in the letter that much of “the essential work we do” requires employees to clock in at the company’s warehouses, in its delivery vehicles and more.
Amazon has more than 175 warehouses around the globe, including more than 110 in North America. Levandowski declined to say if workers at any other Amazon facility have tested positive for COVID-19.
Sweetening its new job offers, Amazon increased pay for hourly employees through April by $2 an hour in the United States, 2 pounds an hour in the United Kingdom, and about 2 euros an hour in parts of the European Union. The company, which generated $280.5 billion in sales last year, said the pay hikes will cost $350 million.
Despite the spread of the coronavirus in Amazon’s U.S. warehouses, it probably will find workers for the new posts, said Elaine Kwon, founder of e-commerce management and software firm Kwontified and a former Amazon manager. With unemployment claims already soaring as businesses shutter from the coronavirus fallout, laid-off workers will need income to pay their rents and feed their families.
“Quite a few people will be willing to take the risk,” Kwon said.
Amazon has long had a contentious relationship with some warehouse workers, fighting efforts in the United States and abroad to unionize. The company, which has nearly 800,000 workers worldwide, most of whom work in its warehouses, has faced criticism for harsh working conditions, insufficient bathroom breaks and difficult-to-attain goals.
Four U.S. senators collectively responded to the calls of the warehouse employees as they wrote a letter to Jeff Bezos publicizing their disapproval of the conditions of the warehouses, especially considering the already present threat of the coronavirus remaining alive for 24 hours on cardboard.
Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Booker (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) jointly stated that Amazon could put “the entire country at risk” if they continued did not maintain clean working environments in their warehouses.