Amazon workers to stage a walkout Monday, demanding closure of Staten Island facility


Employees are protesting Amazon's decision to keep the Staten Island warehouse despite news of a confirmed case about the virus there last week, said Christian Smalls, an assistant chief at the facility that runs the walkout.

Many more employees have tested positive for the virus at the plant than the company publicly acknowledged, Smalls said, claiming that as many as five to seven workers have been detected with the coronavirus.

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An Amazon spokesman said in a statement Sunday night that the company's top priority is health and safety for its employees.

The spokesman said that Amazon "recently implemented daily temperature screenings on our operating sites as an additional preventive measure to support the health and safety of our customers and employees."

"We believe direct communication is the best way to discuss feedback, and our on-site teams speak directly with staff every day to hear their questions and discuss options available in this ever-changing environment," the spokesperson said.

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The walkout begins at 12:30 p.m. and could involve anywhere between 50 and 200 people, Smalls estimated. After the walkout, workers will gather at a public bus stop nearby and talk to the press.

"The plan is to stop all business until the building is closed and sanitized," Smalls told CNN in an interview. "We don't ask for much. We ask the building to be closed and disinfected, and that we get paid."

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Before deciding on a walkout, Smalls, who says he can handle about 500-600 people on a weekly basis, has been seeking help from the plant's general manager every day for the past week – to no avail.

Smalls said he hopes Amazon supports itself quickly, because facilities like his are "the breeding ground for this pandemic." Employees are asked to continue working until they receive confirmation of a positive test result, Smalls said. But, he said, it may be too late due to the virus's long incubation period. Smalls added that he has tried to contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's office, but has not yet received a response.

On Sunday, Amazon conducted daily temperature checks for anyone entering the Staten Island facility at the beginning of their shift, according to a worker employed there and an internal post in the Amazon employee app viewed by CNN Business.

In an interview with CNN's Brian Stelter on Sunday, Jay Carney, Amazon's senior vice president for global business affairs, said ensuring the safety of the company's U.S. employees was "our first and primary concern."

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"This is our first and primary concern, which is to make sure that Amazon employees – 500,000 plus in the United States – are protected the way they can be when they do this heroic work for their citizens," Carney said. He added: "We have also told employees if they are uncomfortable with coming to work, if they are concerned about their own health, they can take unlimited unpaid free time until the end of April without any consequences at all. I want you to Someone should feel that their job is dependent on getting a job in this situation. "

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Amazon has previously said that sick or quarantined employees will receive two weeks 'pay, and that Amazon entrepreneurs who test positive for the virus can apply for up to two weeks' pay from a $ 25 million relief fund the company has created. The company has also said that it is taking "extreme measures to ensure the safety of employees on our site[s]"This includes regular disinfection of door handles, elevator buttons, cabinets and touch screens," Amazon said, in addition to staggering shifts and the spread of chairs in break rooms.

In addition, workers are asked to keep at least six feet apart during the work day, according to Smalls.

– Sara Ashley O & # 39; Brien contributed to this report

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