Published on
by

New York AG Denounces 'Immoral and Inhumane' Firing of Amazon Worker Who Led Protest Over Lack of Coronavirus Protections

"Taking action cost me my job," said Chris Smalls. "Because I tried to stand up for something that's right, the company decided to retaliate against me."

Amazon employees hold a protest and walkout over conditions at the company's Staten Island distribution facility on March 30, 2020 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

New York Attorney General Letitia James late Monday condemned as "immoral and inhumane" Amazon's firing of a Staten Island fulfillment center employee who organized a walkout protesting the retail giant's failure to provide workers with adequate protections against the coronavirus outbreak.

James said in a statement that her office is considering taking legal action against Amazon and called on the National Labor Relations Board to investigate the firing of Chris Smalls, who accused the company of retaliating against him for Monday's demonstration.

"The conditions there are horrific. The items that we use to clean up the building are scarce... We don't have the proper masks, we don't have the latex gloves."
—Chris Smalls, fired Amazon employee

"It is disgraceful that Amazon would terminate an employee who bravely stood up to protect himself and his colleagues," said James. "At the height of a global pandemic, Chris Smalls and his colleagues publicly protested the lack of precautions that Amazon was taking to protect them from COVID-19. Today, Chris Smalls was fired."

Amazon, owned by world's richest man Jeff Bezos, said in a statement that it terminated Smalls for "violating social distancing guidelines" by returning to the Staten Island fulfillment center after he was asked to self-quarantine for 14 days following his exposure to a worker infected by COVID-19.

In an interview with Bloomberg Monday, Smalls called Amazon's claim "ridiculous."

"Taking action cost me my job," said Smalls, who was an assistant manager. "Because I tried to stand up for something that's right, the company decided to retaliate against me."

SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

Never Miss a Beat.

Get our best delivered to your inbox.

Thus far, only one worker at the Staten Island fulfillment center has officially tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but Smalls told Bloomberg he believes more employees have been infected and condemned the company's failure to take necessary precautions.

"The conditions there are horrific," said Smalls. "The items that we use to clean up the building are scarce... We don't have the proper masks, we don't have the latex gloves."

"It's all false, it's all sugarcoated," Smalls said of Amazon's insistence that it has put in place adequate safety procedures. "We have plenty of workers that haven't been to work for the entire month of March because they're scared for their lives... We have people that have Lupus, we have people that have asthma, we have people that have infants at home, that have people that's pregnant."

As Common Dreams reported, dozens of employees at Amazon's Staten Island warehouse walked off the job Monday afternoon to protest the facility's unsanitary conditions.

"We're not asking for much," Smalls told CNN ahead of the protest. "We're asking the building to be closed and sanitized, and for us to be paid [during that process]."

Our pandemic coverage is free to all. As is all of our reporting.

No paywalls. No advertising. No corporate sponsors. Since the coronavirus pandemic broke out, traffic to the Common Dreams website has gone through the roof— at times overwhelming and crashing our servers. Common Dreams is a news outlet for everyone and that’s why we have never made our readers pay for the news and never will. But if you can, please support our essential reporting today. Without Your Support We Won't Exist.

Please select a donation method:



Share This Article