Christian Smalls Amazon Staten Island warehouse worker at JFK8 fulfillment center fired for organizing protests over coronavirus concerns at his place of work.
An Amazon worker at a Staten Island warehouse has told of having no regrets after having led a walkout over coronavirus concerns at his place of employment – where up 200 fellow workers work – only to have his employer fire him.
Asked 24 year old Christian Smalls, ‘How do you fire somebody in the middle of a pandemic?’ the nydailynews reports.
The statement comes a day after Smalls lost his job after organizing a protest outside the retail giant’s Staten Island warehouse- known as JFK8 – over allegedly dangerous coronavirus conditions inside.
Workers are demanding that Amazon shut the warehouse down after reports of at least one employee having tested positive for the coronavirus, and ensure it is completely disinfected before requiring employees to work again CNN reports.
Striking protestors maintain that the real number of cases of COVID-19 infections is at least 10.
‘They wrongfully terminated me’
Christian Smalls’ man’s sacking comes at a tenuous time for Smalls and his kids: 7-year-old twins and a 10-year-old. He remains certain the workers’ complaints were legitimate: lack of Amazon transparency and misinformation about infected employees at the facility.
The firing has left Smalls claiming he was illegitimately fired and demanding he be given his job back.
‘They wrongfully terminated me,’ Smalls told the nydailynews. ‘I feel like everybody knows that. I was not expecting it. It was a thought that never came across my mind.’
While Amazon insisted Smalls was fired for showing up at the warehouse while under a 14-day paid quarantine ordered by the company, the ex-employee said the axing was clearly punitive. He received a phone call with word of his termination from a company official two hours after the protest in which dozens of frightened employees walked off their shifts.
‘It cost me (my job),’ Smalls said of the protest. ‘But if I’m the sacrificial lamb and I get people out of that building, so be it … I don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t care about people.’
‘We’re not asking for much,’ Smalls reiterated. ‘We’re asking the building to be closed and sanitized, and for us to be paid [during that process].’
— New York Communities for Change (@nychange) March 30, 2020
Amazon putting profits over worker safety?
Amazon is allowing contract workers to apply for sick pay if they test positive for the coronavirus or need to self-quarantine due to exposure, but the company is not providing them with paid sick leave as a matter of policy. Employees who are able to get tested are required to report for work while they wait for their results—a process which can take days and serve to expose the warehouse’s 5,000 workers, and anyone they interact with outside of work, to COVID-19.
Amazon facilities have quickly become “breeding grounds for this pandemic,” Smalls told CNN. As of Tuesday, the virus has infected more than 165,482 people in the U.S.—the most of any country in the world—including more than 60,000 in New York State – with over 3,186 deaths, of which NY counts for 1342 deaths.
‘We know we’re not alone at JFK8 and that conditions are similar in Amazon facilities everywhere,’ Phillip Ruiz, a warehouse employee, told New York Communities for Change. ‘Amazon’s actions do not match their statements that they are prioritizing our health or the health of the public.’
The JFK8 strike comes days after workers at an Amazon facility in Queens refused to work their night shift after a fellow employee tested positive. The action also coincided with a strike Monday by gig workers for the grocery delivery app Instacart who are demanding hazard pay, supplies including hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, and paid sick leave for workers with health issues which could make the coronavirus more dangerous to them.