CORONAVIRUS

Amazon Warehouse Worker In New York Dies Of COVID-19

He worked at a Staten Island warehouse where employees had recently walked out to demand that the facility be temporarily closed and sanitized.

A person working at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse in New York has died of COVID-19, the company confirmed to The Verge. Amazon said the employee was last at the facility on April 5 and was placed on quarantine after he was confirmed to have the disease on April 11. 

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of an associate at our site in Staten Island, NY,” an Amazon spokesperson said. “His family and loved ones are in our thoughts, and we are supporting his fellow colleagues.”

Amazon has fired multiple employees who organized to demand improved workplace safety measures during the pandemic, including Chris Smalls, a worker who staged a walkout at the Staten Island warehouse, which is known as JFK8. On Monday, an Amazon vice president overseeing operations at Amazon Cloud referred to the firings and called them “chickenshit” in a publicly released resignation letter

“Remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised,” Tim Bray said. 

Workers at Amazon's Staten Island warehouse strike for the facility to be shut down and cleaned after one staffer tested posi
Workers at Amazon's Staten Island warehouse strike for the facility to be shut down and cleaned after one staffer tested positive for the coronavirus on March 30, 2020, in New York.

On March 30, Amazon fired Smalls, who had encouraged employees to walk out and demand that Amazon temporarily close JFK8 to be sanitized. Vice News released a memo leaked after Smalls’ firing in which Amazon executives said he was “not smart, or articulate” and discussed plans to counteract his reports to the press. At the time, New York Attorney General Letitia James called the firing “immoral and inhumane.” 

In April, Amazon also fired two of its tech employees who were critical of conditions in the company’s warehouses and tried to help organize warehouse workers to discuss their experiences. 

The death announced Tuesday is not the first coronavirus-related death at an Amazon facility, according to Amazon. The company previously said someone employed at a warehouse in Southern California had died from the virus on March 31, and on April 30, Amazon confirmed someone at its facility in Tracy, California, had died from COVID-19 as well.

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