A Worker in Amazon's New York Warehouse Has Died of the Coronavirus

Amazon had fired a worker who organized a walkout to demand the company sanitize the Staten Island warehouse after someone there tested positive.
May 5, 2020, 8:58pm
In this March 30, 2020 file photo, workers at Amazon's fulfillment center in Staten Island, N.Y., gather outside to protest work conditions in the company's warehouse in New York.

A worker at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse has died of COVID-19, the company confirmed to VICE News.

Since March, workers at that fulfillment center in New York have been protesting, calling for additional safety precautions to protect them from the coronavirus. The company has instituted some additional safety precautions; it also fired a worker for protesting, and then tried to smear him.

The company said the employee who died hadn’t been at the warehouse since April 5, and he tested positive for the coronavirus 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.”

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The death was first reported by The Verge.

Amazon fired one of the workers at the Staten Island warehouse, Christian Smalls, who organized a walkout to demand the company sanitize the warehouse after someone who worked in the facility tested positive for the coronavirus. An internal memo previously obtained by VICE News laid out a plan to smear Smalls, calling him “not smart or articulate.”

Another Amazon employee, who worked at the company’s warehouse in Hawthorne, California, died in mid-April.

New York’s attorney general has taken notice: A letter from the AG’s office dated April 22, obtained by NPR, noted that the company may be providing “inadequate” protections to its workers under state law. That letter also noted that the company may have violated labor law by firing Smalls.

READ MORE: Leaked Amazon Memo Details Plan to Smear Fired Warehouse Organizer: ‘He’s Not Smart or Articulate’

And on Monday, one of the company’s top engineers and a vice president, Tim Bray, announced his resignation from Amazon and called the company “chickenshit” for firing protesting workers.

It’s not known how many workers at Amazon facilities have died of coronavirus, but an unofficial tally by the workers themselves and reviewed by The Verge indicates that at least 130 workers have fallen ill.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the date the deceased worker was last at the Staten Island warehouse.

Cover: In this March 30, 2020 file photo, workers at Amazon's fulfillment center in Staten Island, N.Y., gather outside to protest work conditions in the company's warehouse in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File )