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Despite Threats From Management, Amazon Warehouse Workers in Chicago Strike to Demand Better Coronavirus Precautions

"We're going to continue to fight. This is just the beginning of our struggle here." 

Former injured Amazon employees join labor organizers and community activists to demonstrate and hold a press conference outside of an Amazon Go store in the loop to express concerns about what they claim is the company's "alarming injury rate" among warehouse workers on December 10, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. On Saturday at the company's Chicago warehouse known as DCH1, employees walked out to protest the company's lack of precautions against the spread of COVID-19. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Days after leaked email correspondence revealed Amazon executives' plan to publicly attack a Staten Island warehouse employee for organizing a protest over unsafe working conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic, workers at an Amazon facility in Chicago staged a walkout to demand protections from the virus.

DCH1 Amazonians United, the grassroots group made up of workers at the Chicago warehouse known as DCH1 who successfully pressured Amazon to provide part-time employees with paid time off, are calling on their management to temporarily shut down the facility and pay workers while the company sanitizes the building, after at least two employees tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The workers were alerted to the second positive case late Friday, and said delivery drivers who had arrived at the warehouse Saturday morning hadn't been notified before coming to work. The employees were joined by more than a dozen supporters who formed a picket line in their cars as the employees assembled outside the warehouse Saturday morning. According to local reporting by Patch, members of the Democratic Socialists of America were thought to have organized the picket line.

"It was like a huge caravan driving up and down the street, honking and in support of our Safety Strike," wrote DCH1 Amazonians United on Facebook. "Some of the signs they had [were] #PrimememberCaravan, #PrimeMemberSolidarity, and #CommunitySolidarity amongst many other pro-worker signs, supportive of our demands and our lives."

In addition to a temporary shutdown of the warehouse, the workers are calling on Amazon to cover medical bills for any employees or family members who contract the coronavirus as a result of exposure at DCH1; suspend write-ups based on the rate at which workers package and sort deliveries to ensure the employees have time to practice safety precautions throughout the day; and maintain transparency about all the coronavirus cases at DCH1 as soon as managers know about them.

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The workers wore safety gloves and masks as they staged the walkout.

Saturday morning's strike was the fourth direct action at DCH1 over safety concerns this week, and came after Christian Smalls, an Amazon employee in Staten Island, New York who organized a similar walkout, was fired. A leaked memo showed that executives planned to publicly smear Smalls, who is African-American, as "not smart or articulate" as they defended the company against criticism over its treatment of workers.

Workers at DCH1 said they faced threats on Saturday from managers who tried to stop the protest. 

"We're going to continue, we're going to continue to fight," said one worker in a video posted to Facebook. "This is just the beginning of our struggle here." 

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