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.
Amazon workers in Chicago are on safety strike for the fourth time this week! Demands include shutting down the facility with pay for two weeks and sanitizing it, paying for all virus-related medical bills, slowing the work rate so people can do it safely. Here’s their full list pic.twitter.com/dWwxTUzTUZ
— Meagan Day (@meaganmday) April 4, 2020
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The workers wore safety gloves and masks as they staged the walkout.
Amazon workers in Chicago are on strike today.
— Eric Blanc (@_ericblanc) April 4, 2020
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."