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Amazon workers at a Staten Island warehouse staged a walkout Monday afternoon to protest the ecommerce giant's stance on safety amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Christian Smalls, who works at the fulfillment center, told FOX Business he was organizing the walkout. He said participants would "spread out" to avoid catching germs.
"If a building tests positive you should shut it down and sanitize it," Smalls told FOX Business. "That's all we're asking for. … If we don't get a response today, then we're going to City Hall."
He also wants retroactive paychecks for the month of March for workers who took time off because they were afraid of catching coronavirus.
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"These accusations are simply unfounded," an Amazon spokesperson told FOX Business in a statement. "Our employees are heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items they need in this crisis."
"We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available, and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances," the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Instacart shoppers are also planning to strike on Monday, saying the grocery delivery company isn't doing enough for its gig workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
A man leaves an Amazon fulfillment center, March 19, on Staten Island, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker expressed his support for the workers on Monday.
"Amazon [and] Instacart must take care of their workers, especially now," Booker wrote on Twitter. "I've written to Amazon asking exactly how they plan to. I stand with these workers in their strike."
The Staten Island demonstration comes after Amazon started daily temperature checks at the JFK8 fulfillment center.
An Amazon Prime truck passes by the sign outside an Amazon fulfillment center, March 19, in Staten Island, New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
More Staten Island Amazon workers have been diagnosed with the virus than the company admits, Smalls said.
Smalls takes issue with Amazon's claim that he is "on a 14-day self-quarantine requested by Amazon to stay home with full pay," saying he has no assurance that his next paycheck will be in full.
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"He was placed in paid quarantine out of an abundance of caution because we notified him that he may have had close contact with someone at the building who was diagnosed," an Amazon spokesperson told FOX Business.
Xinia Thompson of Brooklyn has a big smile on her face as she waits for a bus outside an Amazon fulfillment center, March 19, on Staten Island in New York after an interview in which she was hired by the company. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Amazon said coronavirus cases at JFK8 were not related as the workers did not have contact with one another, but Smalls said workers have already had too close of contact with an infected coworker.
"The whole department should have been sent home," he said.
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The Amazon workers are not unionized but appear to be receiving support from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
"All employers need to prioritize the health and safety of their workforce at this time," RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum said in a statement. "Unfortunately, Amazon appears to be prioritizing maximizing its enormous profits even over its employees’ safety – and that is unacceptable."
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Amazon said the company wanted to hire 100,000 new workers for its U.S. warehouse and delivery wings in order to keep pace with rising demand for items including hand sanitizer, baby formula and medical supplies.