Gerard Tuzara Amazon California warehouser worker COVID-19 death. Death follows series of strikes by workers demanding changes during health crises.
Gerard Tuzara, 35, worked as an operations manager at Amazon’s Hawthorne facility near LAX airport.
Tuzara, a former Air Force officer is thought to have passed away on March 31st, a week after first being hospitalized. He is the first known employee from the company to die from the disease, Business Insider reports.
Not immediately clear is how or when Tuzara came to contract COVID-19.
Tuzara’s last day of work was March 6 after which point he was on vacation in Mexico until March 20.
A week later, he began experiencing flu-like symptoms and was admitted to hospital.
He passed away on March 31st.
Amazon responds to warehouse worker death:
The Amazon employee’s death comes as workers have gone on rolling strikes to bring attention to what they describe as unsafe working conditions at its warehouses along for delivery workers after recent coronavirus contractions at place of work.
Strikers have demanded more thorough cleanings following confirmed cases along with hazard pay and access to sick leave during the health pandemic.
Responding to Tuzara’s death, Amazon released the following statement, gizmodo reported: ‘We are saddened by the passing of a member of our management team in Hawthorne, California. His family and loved ones are in our thoughts, and we are supporting his fellow colleagues.’
One of Tuzara’s friends wrote a tribute which has been posted in the warehouse where he worked.
‘Gerry was an Air Force officer, a loving husband, son and uncle,’ the letter read. ‘He will be greatly missed.’
Family members also posted their own tributes including Tuzara’s sister, Jess.
‘Today, i lost a big piece of me. My big brother Gerard lost his fight to Covid 19. I refuse to believe you’re not here anymore. Everything feels so unreal and i wish to wake up from this. I feel so helpless not being able to see, hold nor talk to you one last time. I would give everything back to tell and make you feel one last time that we love you. Im sorry you left with no one by your side. I’m mad, why didn’t u fight harder we’re willing to wait weeks or months or even years for you to recover, why just 4 days? Everything has gone by so fast it feels unreal.’
Worker demands for safer working conditions remain unmet as employees are now sacked:
There have been public calls by Amazon’s employees for safer working conditions for those working in the company’s warehouse and for its delivery workers. Workers to date say there have been no less than 74 facilities where worker contractions occurred.
In March a walkout was held at the company’s Staten Island facility with up to 50 workers striking.
Chris Smalls who organized the walkout was then fired by the company.
Smalls was dismissed on the grounds that he put others at risk by violating his paid quarantine when he joined the demonstration at the Staten Island fulfillment center.
On Friday, the company fired two user experience designers, Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham, for what it called repeated violations of internal policies, without specifying which ones.
The two workers had recently made public statements questioning Amazon’s pandemic safety measures and pledging to match donations of up to $500 to support staff at risk of getting the virus.
In statements, Cunningham said she believed Amazon could play a powerful role during the crisis, but to do so, ‘we have to really listen to the workers who are on the front line, who don´t feel adequately protected.’
Costa said in her statement, ‘No company should punish their employees for showing concern for one another, especially during a pandemic!’
The e-commerce giant also said it dismissed Bashir Mohamed, a warehouse worker in Minnesota, ‘for inappropriate language, behavior, and violating social distancing guidelines.’
Mohamed, who worked at the warehouse for three years, according to a previous buzzfeed report countered, saying his workplace advocacy is what led to him being fired.
In addition to organizing workers to advocate for better working conditions, Mohamed had begun pushing for more rigorous cleaning and other measures to protect against the transmission of the coronavirus.
It’s believed there are at least 74 Amazon facilities with employees who have been infected, according to The Washington Post.
Amazon has not revealed any figures regarding the number of employees affected by the disease but is promising to improve safety for its workers including providing face masks and temperature checks.
In a statement, Amazon said, ‘We respect the rights of employees to protest and recognize their legal right to do so; however, these rights do not provide blanket immunity against bad actions, particularly those that endanger the health, well-being or safety of their colleagues.’
Hourly pay has also been increased for its workers by $2/hour and those that are diagnosed with the disease will receive paid sick leave.
Working conditions at Amazon have also been on the political radar.
‘Instead of firing employees who want justice, maybe Jeff Bezos—the richest man in the world—can focus on providing his workers with paid sick leave, a safe workplace, and a livable planet,’ Sanders tweeted.
Posted Sanders on Facebook earlier on Tuesday, ‘Chris Smalls organized Amazon warehouse workers to demand protective gear, paid sick leave, and workplace safety.’
‘Rather than listen to him and change its policies, Amazon fired him and smeared his character. I say to Jeff Bezos: Enough! We will not tolerate CEOs who intimidate workers fighting for their human rights.’