Amazon values wealth over workers’ safety during the pandemic

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Angelica Tejada

Amazon’s dismissal toward its workers’ health and safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic shows where the company’s priorities lay — with profits.

New York Attorney General Letitia James sued Amazon on Feb. 16, claiming that the company did not provide adequate safety protections during the COVID-19 pandemic and retaliated against concerned workers.

The case was filed in the New York Supreme Court and it focuses on two Amazon facilities: one in Staten Island and one in Queens.

“Amazon’s flagrant disregard for health and safety requirements has threatened serious illness and grave harm to the thousands of workers in these facilities and poses a continued substantial and specific danger to the public health,” James said in the case.

James began an investigation into Amazon in March after receiving complaints about working conditions at the two facilities. At the time, New York City was flushed with COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The case states that after a worker tested positive for COVID-19 in March at the Staten Island facility, it did not shut down for cleaning.

At least 250 employees tested positive for COVID-19, and more than 90 of them had been at the facility within seven days of alerting the company of the result.

One would like to believe that a company as large and successful as Amazon would take the necessary steps to take care of its employees, especially during such an unprecedented time.

Yet, Amazon went backward by also silencing workers that spoke out on the working conditions.

Christian Smalls, who was an employee at the Staten Island facility, organized a protest in March, “Calling simply for the building to be temporarily closed and more stringently sanitized and for workers to be paid during the hiatus as several had become sick,” according to The New York Times.

After the protest, Smalls was fired, which showed how the company received and chose to respond to the protestors’ demands.

Amazon employees have been rightfully acknowledged throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for their work that has provided millions across the United States with essentials.

By not holding worker’s safety and concerns as the priority, the company failed in making the facilities adequate for its employees.

Moving forward, Amazon has to be held accountable for its wrongdoing because if not, it will continue to fail in keeping workers safe during the pandemic.

More so, Amazon is an outrageously wealthy company. Amazon’s former CEO Jeff Bezos’ net worth, as of Feb. 22, is approximately $189 billion, and in 2019 Amazon hit a record of $11.5 billion in net profit, Forbes reported.

It doesn’t make sense that a company with that much wealth will not supply its workers with the most care possible, especially when that money is coming from their sweat and time.

Essential workers are now given the attention and thanks that previously would be an afterthought. Amazon must do better when it comes to taking care of its employees.

With or without the lawsuit, Amazon should take into account the concerns raised by employees and do what it can to fix its failures and help its thousands of workers stay safe.