Senators press Jeff Bezos on Amazon’s coronavirus workplace safety measures

Senators press Jeff Bezos on Amazon’s coronavirus workplace safety measures

Excerpted from The Seattle Times by Benjamin Romano

Four U.S. senators pressed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos on Friday for details on how the company is keeping its workers safe, after one of its U.S. warehouse employees tested positive for COVID-19 in New York.

Two New York employees of Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market have also tested positive for the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, the company confirmed Friday.

Amazon employees across the country, rushing to fulfill a surge in online orders as the coronavirus pandemic spreads, have called out shortcomings in the company’s response, including a lack of recommended symptom screening and social distancing measures for Seattle-area workers — some of whom reported seeing changes made during shifts Thursday.

Employees are demanding paid sick leave, childcare subsidies, hazard pay and relief from production quotas to provide time for sanitation.

Amazon officials did not respond to requests for comment on symptom screening, which was recommended March 11 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for all workplaces in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. A Whole Foods employee also said workers were not being screened for symptoms.

Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman said in a statement the “accusations” in the letter — from Democratic U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent — “are simply unfounded.”
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