Amazon Workers Shut Down Warehouse After Employee Is Infected With Coronavirus

"Management tried to have us come in at 10:15 but we have shut the warehouse down to keep our coworkers and communities safe!"
March 19, 2020, 1:00pm
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An Amazon worker in Queens explains why they are not going to work. Image: Amazonians United NYC. 

Amazon has confirmed that a warehouse worker at its delivery center in Queens, New York tested positive for Covid-19 and that it temporarily shut down the facility, as first reported by the Atlantic and confirmed by Motherboard.

The warehouse closure is the first reported in one of Amazon’s US warehouses, and marks the arrival of an inevitable threat to Amazon’s vast logistics empire. Experts say Amazon Prime could falter as the novel coronavirus spreads, with warehouse closures, shortages of goods, and trade problems likely. Amazon warehouse workers in Queens and other locations have said that production quotas have increased as customers rely more heavily on Amazon prime. Workers say they refused to work after Amazon asked them to return to work last night.

Workers first received news of the case not from management but via a text message sent out by an internal group of workers, known Amazonians United NYC, which has been organizing in recent weeks for paid time off and paid sick leave.

“Confirmed #Coronavirus in nyc Amazon warehouse! Management tried to have us come in at 10:15 but we have shut the warehouse down to keep our coworkers and communities safe!” the group Amazonians United NYC wrote on Twitter.

“We are supporting the individual who is now in quarantine,” an Amazon spokesperson told Motherboard. “Since the early days of this situation, we have worked closely with local authorities to proactively respond, ensuring we continue to serve customers while taking care of our associates and we’re following all guidelines from local officials about the operations of our buildings.”

The spokesperson added that Amazon is taking measures to reduce the spread of the virus including increased cleaning at warehouses and adding distance between workers and drivers and customers at the point of delivery. “In addition to our enhanced daily deep cleaning, we temporarily closed the Queens delivery station for additional sanitation and sent associates home with full pay,” the spokesperson added.

In a recent petition for paid sick leave and childcare accommodation, the Amazon warehouse workers in Queens wrote, “we have seen an increase in the volume of such goods, placing a greater strain on workers. Yet despite larger workloads, Amazon continues to enforce and raise productivity quotas. At the same time, many workers have been shocked to discover the company has been illegally denying them paid sick leave.”

The news arrives after five confirmed cases at Amazon warehouses in Spain and Italy, which lead to walkouts at the facilities. Amazon has refused to close those facilities.

Earlier this week, Amazon promised to pay all of its employees and contractors an additional $2 an hour until the end of April, as hazard pay during the worst of the outbreak.