Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse on Monday was hit with its second labor protest since the coronavirus outbreak began.
Some 50 workers gathered outside the Bloomfield distribution center, called JFK8, to protest the company’s handling of the virus amid complaints that 25 people there have tested positive for the deadly illness.
Amazon disputed the number of workers who were protesting.
“Of the more than 5,000 employees at our Staten Island fulfillment center, less than 10 people participated in today’s demonstration – half of whom were not Amazon employees,” according to an Amazon spokesperson.
It’s not clear if any workers walked off the job to join the noon rally, which lasted about an hour, according to labor groups.
Amazon does not provide unpaid time off for hourly workers who feel symptoms or may have sick people at home.
It’s the second time the SI warehouse staffers have walked off the job in protest of Amazon’s handling of the coronavirus. On March 30, dozens of employees held a rally spearheaded by management assistant Christopher Smalls — who was later fired by Amazon.
At the time, fewer than 10 warehouse workers reportedly had the virus, but the number has since increased to more than 25, according to Jason Schwartz, a spokesman for Athena, one of the worker advocacy groups involved in the strike.
“Workers are asking for a cohesive plan that protects them and the health of the public,” according to the advisory.
The coronavirus pandemic is hitting U.S. meat operations, slowing and temporarily halting production at some plants as sickness and fear keep workers home.
Meat plant employees, working by the hundreds in plants, with many standing side by side on processing lines, play a critical role in replenishing supermarkets. But workers’ concerns that they could contract the coronavirus have prompted walkouts and complaints, while a growing number of positive cases prompts some meat companies to scale back operations.
JBS USA Holdings Inc. has closed a beef-processing plant in Souderton, Pa., for two weeks, a spokesman said over the weekend. The plant, which produces ground beef and other products and employs more than 1,000 people, gradually reduced operations last week after several managers were sent home with flulike symptoms.
Wendell Young, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, which represents workers at the plant, said rising numbers of processing workers have fallen ill, and others were afraid to go to work.
“It accelerated rapidly in the previous week, and it created some production challenges,” Mr. Young said. JBS altered schedules and seating to create more distance between workers, but the nature of meatpacking work complicated those efforts, Mr. Young said.