Amazon this week strongly defended its work to protect its employees and delivery drivers, following harsh criticism about some of its workers getting sick from the coronavirus.
Four US senators wrote a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos last week, calling on Amazon to respond to a series of questions about how it’s keeping its workers safe. In the company’s response back, which was provided by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker’s office on Friday, Amazon detailed its many efforts to help its employees during the health crisis.
“Any accusations that we are not properly protecting our employees are simply unfounded,” Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy, wrote. “Our employees are heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items that they need in this crisis.”
Kristin Lynch, a spokeswoman for Booker, said Friday that the senator was “encouraged” by some of the quick reforms Amazon has taken following the initial letter to the company. She added that the senator was disappointed that Amazon still refuses to temporarily shut down warehouses where workers have tested positive for coronavirus. She added that Amazon didn’t address whether it will pay for employees’ coronavirus tests.
“The safety and well-being of Amazon’s employees must be paramount, and given the nature and scope of Amazon’s business, the safety and well-being of the millions of Americans who are Amazon customers are also at stake,” she said in an emailed statement.
Amazon has been under the spotlight, even more than usual, during the coronavirus pandemic, as it’s worked to respond to a surge of orders from people who are asked to stay home while also trying to keep its hundreds of thousands of employees from getting sick. Over the past week, local and national news have reported about aacross the country testing positive for the coronavirus, a problem that could disrupt the company’s ability to complete its deliveries.
Some of those facilities were shut down for cleaning, and some employees who were in close contact with the infected employees have been quarantined. In Shepherdsville, Kentucky, a warehouse was closed until April 1, after several employees there tested positive.
In his letter, Huseman listed the work Amazon has done to help its employees, which include increased cleaning and sanitization at all sites, including disinfecting door handles, touchscreens, handrails and other frequently touched surfaces. Amazon also eliminated stand-up meetings and staggered start times and break times in warehouses to make it easier for people to physically distance themselves from one another.
Hourly pay and overtime pay has been raised. Up to two weeks pay are offered for any employee diagnosed with the coronavirus or in quarantine, and hourly workers have been offered unlimited unpaid time off through April.
Read the full letter below:
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