US senators including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren slam Amazon's record on worker safety in new letter
Fifteen US senators including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris tore into Amazon in a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos published Friday, describing the company's record on worker safety as "dismal." In the letter, the senators expressed "serious concern" about the safety of Amazon's employees, citing numerous recent reports of worker mistreatment. On Monday night, Amazon's public-relations chief, Jay Carney, sparred with journalists on Twitter after some took issue with an op-ed article he wrote called "Why Bernie Sanders praised Amazon." Journalists said Carney's article presented Sanders as having blindly praised Amazon for improved treatment of its workers, while failing to mention Friday's letter.
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Fifteen US senators including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris tore into Amazon on Friday in a letter to CEO Jeff Bezos, describing the company's record on worker safety as "dismal." In the letter, the senators expressed "serious concern" about the safety of Amazon's employees, citing numerous recent reports of worker mistreatment. Among other changes, they urged Bezos to reduce worker quotas and speed requirements and to introduce immediate physician referrals for unwell workers whose symptoms aren't improving. They also asked that bathroom breaks no longer be treated as "time off task." At the turn of the decade, Amazon's reputation for employee maltreatment could hardly be greater. The senators' letter draws on a wealth of investigative reporting, notably from The Atlantic, that has painted a grim picture of life at the average Amazon warehouse. Amazon's public-relations chief, Jay Carney, pushed back on the narrative Monday with an op-ed article published in The New York Times called "Why Bernie Sanders praised Amazon." In the piece, Carney said Sanders called him and praised Amazon's recent increase of its minimum wage to $15. On Monday evening, he went on to spar with journalists on Twitter after some took issue with the way his piece failed to mention contextual details about Sanders.
Also funny how @JayCarney brags about the company's mandatory $15 an hour across the board minimum wage, yet we found numerous Amazon delivery contractors advertising jobs that paid less than that. pic.twitter.com/30kLAI1yux — Ken Bensinger (@kenbensinger) February 10, 2020
Ken Bensinger of BuzzFeed News tweeted that Carney's article didn't mention the pressure campaign Sanders waged to get Amazon to raise its minimum wage in the first place and said it was "funny" that Carney's piece also failed to mention Friday's letter. Carney replied: "Would be 'funny', I guess, if Bernie hadn't called to congratulate us for raising wages 15 months ago. And if I hadn't submitted the Op-Ed to the Times 10 days ago." Bensinger responded by linking to another letter, signed five months ago by three US senators, including Warren but not Sanders, which expressed concern about "dangerous conditions" Amazon imposed on delivery companies and drivers who delivered its packages.SEE ALSO: Amazon's intense warehouse working conditions are being turned into a play featuring a robot made from delivery boxes Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: 62 new emoji and emoji variations were just finalized, including a bubble tea emoji and a transgender flag. Here's how everyday people submit their own emoji.
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Democratic senators sent a letter to the company asking for more details after it fired four...Democratic senators sent a letter to the company asking for more details after it fired four employees who raised health concerns about its warehouses.
Amazon may have violated labor laws by firing worker involved in protest, New York attorney general says (AMZN)
Amazon may have violated New York's whistleblower law by firing a worker involved in a protest...Amazon may have violated New York's whistleblower law by firing a worker involved in a protest over workplace safety, the state's attorney general said in a letter to the company, NPR reported Monday. The AG's letter said its initial findings suggested Amazon fired the worker to "silence his complaints and send a threatening message to other employees that they should also keep quiet," according to NPR. The letter, which the attorney general's office confirmed to Business Insider, also said Amazon's safety measures implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic are "so inadequate" that they may violate federal and state workplace safety rules, too. Amazon told Business Insider in a statement that it didn't fire the worker. Amazon has come under fire from employees, lawmakers, and labor activists in recent weeks over working conditions at its warehouses and firing of workers who have spoken out about the issue. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. New York's attorney general said Amazon may have violated the state's whistleblower law last month by firing a Staten Island warehouse worker after he went on strike to protest the company's coronavirus-related safety practices, NPR reported Monday. In a letter sent to the company last week, the state's top lawyer, Letitia James, said her office's initial findings "raise serious concern that Amazon may have discharged [the employee] in order to silence his complaints and send a threatening message to other employees that they should also keep quiet about any health and safety concerns," according to NPR. The letter said James' office had learned that Amazon's termination of the employee, Christian Smalls, had left other workers afraid to speak up, adding that: "this is a particularly dangerous message to send during a pandemic, when chilling worker speech about health and safety practices could literally be a matter of life and death." A spokesperson for the New York attorney general's office declined to comment on the letter but confirmed its existence to Business Insider. "We did not terminate Mr. Smalls' employment for organizing a 15-person protest. We terminated his employment for putting the health and safety of others at risk and violations of his terms of his employment," Amazon spokesperson Rachael Lighty told Business Insider in a statement. Lighty said Smalls violated the company's order for him to self-isolate at home for 14 days with pay because it determined he had come into contact with a coworker who tested positive for COVID-19. Amazon has fired at least six workers in recent weeks who were involved in protests criticizing the company's response to the coronavirus pandemic and is now facing multiple inquiries from the National Labor Relations Board about whether it unlawfully retaliated against workers who spoke out, as well as an investigation brought by New York City's human rights commissioner concerning the same issue. "We respect the rights of employees to protest and recognize their legal right to do so, but these rights do not provide blanket immunity against bad actions, particularly those that endanger the health, well-being or safety of their colleagues," Lighty said. Earlier in April, Amazon terminated two engineers based out of its Seattle headquarters who were involved in labor organizing efforts, though they were let go for violating internal communications policies, not for endangering coworkers' health or safety, the company told Business Insider at the time. James' office also expressed concern in the letter that the health and safety precautions Amazon has taken in response to the coronavirus pandemic have been "so inadequate that they may violate several provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act," in addition to other federal and state workplace safety guidelines, NPR reported. "Our top concern is ensuring the health and safety of our employees. We made over 150 process updates—from enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures to new efforts like disinfectant spraying," Lighty said. Amazon has come under fire in recent weeks from workers who say, despite the measures Amazon says it has taken, the company hasn't done enough to protect them from COVID-19. People have tested positive for the disease in more than 70 of the company's facilities, according to The Washington Post. Lawmakers have taken aim at Amazon over its workplace conditions and response to workers speaking out. Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, called on the company in March to take additional steps to protect workers, while five Democratic senators pressed the company earlier in April for answers about its reasoning for firing Smalls. Amazon has been trying to balance the safety of its workers with increased demand for its services as coronavirus lockdowns worldwide fuel a surge in online shopping. The company said earlier in April it will add 75,000 more jobs after adding 100,000 roles in March. SEE ALSO: Amazon employees say they're scared to go to work, but they're not alone — here are 8 big companies facing worker criticism over their coronavirus safety response Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: We tested a machine that brews beer at the push of a button