The leader of an Amazon warehouse walkout will take his fight for a safe workplace to the New York governor’s office if needed, he told RT. City authorities are investigating whether he was fired in retaliation for the protest.
Chris Smalls, the Amazon associate who led Monday’s walkout at the megacorporation’s mammoth Staten Island warehouse, believes he was fired over his leadership of the protest, but he told RT he isn’t done fighting for the safety of what were until recently his fellow employees. “My plan of action is to continue to fight until the buildings are closed down,” he said. “They got rid of me to stop the movement but they actually empowered me and motivated me, so I will continue to fight.”
The walkout’s demands were modest: shut down and disinfect the warehouse, provide adequate cleaning supplies and personal protection equipment, and operate within safe social distancing guidelines. “People are scared to work” in the massive 5,000-person facility, he said – even the cleaning crews – because the company refuses to disinfect its facility even after as many as a dozen people tested positive for coronavirus.
All we were asking for was being protected.
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Amazon insists it fired Smalls after five years of employment because he broke quarantine after coming into contact with an employee diagnosed with coronavirus. The e-commerce giant told ABC News he “received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines and putting the safety of others at risk.” Smalls, however, pointed out that there are procedures typically followed in firing employees that were skipped in his case.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has asked the National Labor Relations Board to investigate the firing, warning that employees have the right to organize under state law and “retaliatory action by management” is illegal. Such action in the midst of a pandemic, she said in a statement on Tuesday, is “also immoral and inhumane.”
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Some 50 to 60 employees participated in the walkout, which inspired a similar protest in Chicago and attracted international media attention. With three-quarters of the US currently under some form of quarantine or lockdown, Amazon and other online shopping behemoths have become essential to the functioning of society. But if the company continues to turn a deaf ear to employee concerns, Smalls warned, “we will have to go above their heads and go to the government to close them down.” He plans to take a contingent of protesters to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office in Albany, if it comes to that.
If Amazon does not react…we will go to the governor’s door. That is what we will do in a day or two. We are definitely planning a bigger protest and plan to go to the governor’s office.
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