Workers at an Amazon fulfillment center near Detroit, Michigan are calling for the company to provide more protective measures against coronavirus, as at least four employees have tested positive.
A total of 40 warehouse workers staged a walkout on Wednesday and demanded that the company provide more safety equipment and shut down the facility temporarily for deep cleaning.
Mario Crippen, who helped organize the strike and has worked for Amazon since 2018, told Cheddar that working conditions at the warehouse have been "horrible" amid the pandemic.
"There's no hand sanitizer, no face masks given out. We're limited on glove use. At the break room door, they're squirting hand sanitizer in our hands, because we're so low," he said.
Amazon responded to the walkout with a statement to CNBC that claims the e-commerce company was "working hard" in order to protect its workers. “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," read the statement.
Crippens said he would also like to see increased transparency from Amazon about the number of coronavirus cases among workers at the center and considers the current count suspect.
Beyond the needs and safety of employees, the organizers are also making the case that Amazon has a public responsibility to help stop the spread of the virus.
"Amazon's not giving workers, their families, or their neighbors much choice, except to take dramatic action to protect public health," said Dania Rajendra, director of Athena, a grassroots organization that supports the workers and opposes Amazon's outsized role in the economy.
Amazon's relative immunity to the economic hardships that have come with the pandemic make it even more important that it take responsibility for its workers, Rajendra said.
"They have a responsibility to help flatten the curve and not be a vector," she added.
In the meantime, Crippen is calling on investors to pull out of Amazon until they improve working conditions. He also said that he was willing to keep up the strikes until changes are made.
"They will continue until we see change. I don't mind doing another strike if I have to, until my voices are heard and my demands are met," he said.
The walkout in Michigan followed a similar action at a fulfillment center in Staten Island earlier this week. The lead organizer of the strike, Chris Smalls, was fired for not following social distancing guidelines, according to the company.
A company memo has since leaked revealing some unflattering criticisms of the former employee.
"He's not smart, or articulate, and to the extent the press wants to focus on us versus him, we will be in a much stronger PR position than simply explaining for the umpteenth time how we're trying to protect workers," wrote David Zapolsky, Amazon's general counsel, in the memo, which drew criticism from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y. 14th District), who called it "racist and classist."