For Immediate Release: December 2, 2020
Media Contact: Patrick Nevada, firstname.lastname@example.org, 646-866-9065
Amazon Workers Call for NY HERO Act as Holiday Shopping Season Kicks Off
Workers joined by community allies for rally at Jeff Bezos’ Fifth Avenue apartment
NEW YORK – Amazon workers and other essential workers were joined by community allies today for a rally at the Fifth Avenue apartment of Jeff Bezos demanding state lawmakers back a bill that would establish stronger health and safety standards at Amazon and other corporations and give workers a stronger role in their enforcement.
The rally comes just days after Black Friday and Cyber Monday kicked off what’s expected to be one of the toughest holiday seasons in recent memory, with workers under pressure to meet grueling quotas while their employers fail to take the needed steps to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19.
“Every day I come into work, I’m scared that I’ll get sick or take COVID back to my family and friends. We’ve asked Amazon again and again to protect us from the pandemic, but they just ignore us and do whatever it takes to make more profits,” said Dakar Omari Wallace, an Amazon worker at the JFK8 fulfillment center on Staten Island. “We’re done relying on Amazon to make change on its own. We need our state lawmakers to step in and pass protections that can keep us safe and empower us to raise concerns without worrying about retaliation. We don’t have time to waste.”
The NY HERO Act, or the New York Health and Essential Rights Act, would strengthen health and safety protections at Amazon and other corporations where workers have been at risk, including stricter PPE and testing guidelines. It would also give workers more power to monitor and enforce health and safety violations and protect them from retaliation for voicing concerns. A coalition of more than 65 unions, worker centers, and community organizations representing millions of workers across the state sent a letter to state legislators last week urging them to support the bill.
“Too many workers have already sacrificed their health for our community’s benefit. The New York HERO Act will honor their efforts by giving workers the tools to protect themselves while on the job,” said New York State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris. “I proudly stand with the Amazon employees today and every day as we demand management deliver safer workplaces.”
“While hundreds of thousands of excluded workers have lost their jobs at smaller businesses and go without any unemployment benefits or COVID-19 relief, Amazon is profiting off the pandemic,” said Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York. “As Amazon makes millions off the backs of its employees, it has refused to protect its own workers. Amazon’s failure to provide a safe workplace is deeply troubling and unacceptable.”
Workers at the rally also called on federal lawmakers to support legislation that would break up Amazon and crack down on the company’s anti-competitive practices. A U.S. House subcommittee recently released recommendations that would overhaul federal regulatory policy toward Amazon and other tech giants.
“Amazon’s monopoly power has insulated the company from any accountability toward its workers or our communities. It’s used its power to avoid doing the hard work of protecting workers who are at risk and instead has ignored or targeted workers who have called the company out,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director of ALIGN. “New York legislators have a chance to stand up for essential workers at Amazon and other large corporations by passing the NY HERO Act and ensuring that workers are protected and have a real say in the safety of their workplace. We need to make the NY HERO Act a priority.”
Since the start of the pandemic, Amazon and other major corporations have virtually ignored the needs of essential-worker New Yorkers and their neighbors, including more and better protections from the pandemic, including reduced quotas, PPE, hazard pay, adequate paid time off, and more transparency about positive cases. According to Amazon, more than 19,000 workers have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least ten have died. Workers suspect the numbers are far higher, and Amazon’s own internal documents have shown that at least one facility had a rate of spread that was four times the community rate.
“During the pandemic, we have seen profits rise at the expense of the health of our essential workers who do not receive essential protections. We must pass the NY Hero Act to ensure that corporations profiting off of the labor of our communities are doing their fair share in ensuring that those workers are able to do their jobs safely,” said New York State Assemblymember Karines Reyes. “Amazon and CEO Jeff Bezos have amassed billions in wealth while thousands of their workers have gotten COVID-19. We cannot continue to allow the wealthiest Americans to continue to build their wealth on the backs of minimum and low wage workers who suffer due to unsafe work conditions.”
New Yorkers have called on elected officials and regulators to step in where corporate leaders continue to fail. If passed, the NY HERO Act would be the latest in a growing list of laws raising health and safety standards and ensuring workers have a greater say in the safety of their workplace. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a program to allow workers to form “public health councils” that provide oversight of employers’ response to the pandemic.
“We need the NY HERO Act to protect essential workers at Amazon and other major corporations, who have been ignored and retaliated against over the course of the pandemic simply for speaking up about the dangers they face when they come into work each day,” said Jonathan Westin, Executive Director of New York Communities for Change. “Jeff Bezos and Amazon have made billions over the course of the pandemic while workers have fallen sick and brought the pandemic home to their communities. We can’t continue to let billionaires profit off the backs of our communities while ruthlessly suppressing workers who dare to speak up,”
“Jeff Bezos and Amazon have made billions during the pandemic on the backs of warehouse workers, delivery drivers, and other employees who are being exposed to COVID-19 at work,” said President of Teamsters Joint Council 16 George Miranda. “New York needs to hold Amazon and other pandemic profiteers accountable by passing the NY HERO Act to bring enforceable COVID-19 standards to every workplace in our state. These workers got us through the first wave. Now it’s our job to make sure they survive the second wave.”