An Amazon warehouse worker in Indianapolis, Indiana died of COVID-19, the company confirmed.
Death brings the known total number of COVID-19 deaths in Amazon camps to seven, but Amazon’s worker notification process makes it difficult to determine the true number. Several IND8 employees first heard about the death rumors and said that management only began to provide more information to employees after a confrontation.
“You wouldn’t say anything if there weren’t people who asked questions,” says an IND8 employee who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.
Amazon has repeatedly refused to tell how many warehouse workers were diagnosed with or died from the virus. In a 60-minute interview that aired on Sunday, Dave Clark, senior vice president of global operations at Amazon, described infection statistics as “not a particularly useful number”
An Amazon spokesman said the company had been alerted to the Indiana employee’s death on April 30 and immediately notified all employees in the building. “We are saddened by the loss of an employee at our Indianapolis, IN location,” the company said in a statement. “His family and loved ones are in our thoughts and we will support his colleagues in the coming days.”
In March, Amazon employees criticized the company for not notifying employees when their colleagues were diagnosed with the virus. The company now sends text notifications or automated calls when an employee is diagnosed. However, the notifications often only refer to “several new cases”. Therefore, employees must notify themselves in order to determine the spread of the corona virus in their facility. At IND8, workers believe the number is around a dozen. Jana Jumpp, an Amazon warehouse worker in Indiana, has collected warnings sent to workers across the country and says the virus was diagnosed in at least 800 Amazon warehouse workers.
The Indianapolis case is the second known death of an Amazon warehouse worker in the state after it was confirmed that a worker died in Jeffersonville, and it is the seventh in the United States. Workers also died in Staten Island, New York; Bethpage, New York; Waukegan, Illinois; Hawthorne, California; and Tracy, California. It is unclear how the employee became infected with the virus and the employee’s name has not been released. Amazon says it was the last time in the building on April 19.
Amazon was determined to maintain something similar to normal operations throughout the pandemic. Given the increase in orders, the company hired 175,000 new employees and opposed the closure of US warehouses where the employees tested positive. (So far, only one in the US, a return processing facility in Kentucky, has closed after the governor ordered the closure.) After the supply of unnecessary goods to its warehouses was temporarily suspended, the restrictions were lifted and delivery times started on their pre-pandemic Level drop.
However, workers, activists and lawmakers have raised concerns about the security of the company’s camps. From the end of March, warehouse workers went on strike and called for facilities to be closed and cleaned after the workers tested positive for the virus. Amazon fired several employees who raised security concerns, and last week the senators wrote a letter asking for information about the dismissals. Earlier this month, a senior engineer and vice president resigned from the dismissal of workers who asked to improve storage conditions.
Amazon has introduced new security measures, including temperature checks, face masks and improved cleaning. “Our primary concern is to ensure the health and safety of our employees. We expect to invest approximately $ 4 billion in COVID-related initiatives from April to June to bring products to customers and improve employee safety guarantee, “says a statement by the company. The company also states that infection rates in its camps are at or below those in the communities in which they are located.
However, IND8 and elsewhere say that cleaning was uneven and conditions are often too crowded to allow for adequate social distance. Many fear that recent policy changes pose a higher risk to them. This month, Amazon reversed a policy it had introduced at the start of the pandemic that allowed workers to take unlimited free time without pay. (Amazon is expected to end another coronavirus policy on June 1, plus an additional $ 2 per hour of hazard payment.) The vacation policy had enabled workers who feared their safety – and could afford to forego a paycheck to stay at home without being fired because they had overdrawn their quarterly allotment of 20 hours of unpaid free time. When the policy ended on May 1, workers said their facilities were overcrowded.
“Before we had the unlimited UPT [unpaid time off] If people didn’t feel safe, they didn’t have to come to work, ”said an IND8 employee. “When that was gone, we no longer had a hundred and twenty-five people, but four to five hundred per shift. It’s really full. “
That workers and others are concerned that the end of the leave policy will force people who feel sick to get to work. Amazon offers paid vacation for people with COVID-19 diagnosis and partial pay for people with fever but no test results but no general sick leave. This week, IND8 employees were sent home early when an employee on the floor received a positive COVID-19 test result.
The system was cleaned, but the next shift came as usual. The risk is particularly unjustified for the IND8 employees because they process returned goods instead of sending goods to customers in Germany. “We are not essential,” said one worker. “Everyone likes, why aren’t we closed?”
This employee has received six notifications of positive cases in the facility, but it is unclear how many people represent these notifications. To get a feel for the risk, she wrote on the Voice of the Associate Board, a bulletin where employees could request changes and ask questions, exactly how many cases there were in the warehouse. There was no response.