CNBC: As Coronavirus Kills Another Amazon Worker, The Company’s Response Is Adding To Employees’ Fears

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

An Amazon warehouse employee in Northeast Illinois passed away from the coronavirus, the company confirmed to CNBC. The employee died on April 18 and, according to sources, his last day at the facility was on March 19, 2020. 

The employee, who worked out of Amazon's Waukegan, Illinois warehouse, known as MDW8, died of the disease on April 18. The worker, who was 50 years old, left behind a wife and five children, as well as two step-children. The employee worked the night shift as a picker, which involves selecting items from the facility's shelves and preparing them for shipping, among other duties.


Beltway Insider: Trump/COVID 19, Protesters, GOP Pandemic Benefits, Vaccine, EU, N/S Korea, Election


"We are saddened by the loss of an associate at our site in Waukegan, Illinois," Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski told CNBC in a statement. "His family and loved ones are in our thoughts, and we are supporting his fellow colleagues." 

One MDW8 worker, who knew the individual, claims not everyone at the facility knew of the employee's passing: "If someone I know doesn't show up one day and it's because they got sick and died, are we just not going to acknowledge that loss?"

The worker's death comes as Amazon warehouse employees have raised concerns that the company isn't doing enough to protect them from catching the coronavirus while they're on the job. Employees have also criticized how Amazon handles positive cases at its facilities, with some arguing it should shut down those warehouses and do more to make sure employees are informed. 


The Coronavirus Pandemic Exposes Frailties in the Medical Ecosystem


It's not clear how or when the employee contracted the coronavirus. The worker was last at the facility on March 19, at which point he hadn't reported any symptoms, Amazon said. The company was made aware that the worker tested positive for the coronavirus on March 24. 

As coronavirus kills another Amazon worker, the company's response is adding to employees' fears

Amazon declined to comment on how many warehouse employees have died from the coronavirus nationwide. The Illinois worker's passing marks the fourth known case of an Amazon worker who has died from the virus, following reports of deaths in Staten Island, New YorkHawthorne, California; and Tracy, California

The company hasn't provided a total number of workers who have tested positive from the virus at its facilities. As a result, Amazon workers have attempted to keep an unofficial tally of confirmed and unconfirmed cases nationwide, with one employee Reddit group estimating there are at least 400 employees who have contracted the coronavirus.


CNBC: Neiman Marcus Bankruptcy Challenged, Creditors Push for Sale


Amazon operates 175 of warehouses across the country and some warehouses have reported dozens of cases. 

Tensions Grow

Tensions have been growing between Amazon and warehouse workers nationwide, as the number of confirmed cases and deaths at its facilities have climbed. Warehouse workers have called for the company to put in place greater safety protections, including providing paid sick leave and closing down facilities where there are positive cases for additional cleaning. 

Amazon has previously said it has gone to "great lengths" to keep facilities clean and make sure employees are following necessary precautions, such as washing their hands, using hand sanitizer and practicing social distancing. It has also started taking employees' temperatures when they report to work and has supplied them with face masks.

In the company's latest earnings report, Amazon said it would invest its expected $4 billion second-quarter profit in coronavirus-related efforts, such as purchasing additional safety gear for workers and building out its coronavirus testing capabilities, among other things.


CNBC: J. Crew is Preparing for a Bankruptcy Filing that Could Come This Weekend


Still, Amazon workers continue to argue the company isn't doing enough to protect them. Employees have staged at least three walkouts at local warehouses and participated in nationwide strikes to demand stronger coronavirus safety protections. In recent weeks, their calls have garnered support from Amazon tech workers in Seattle, including from a distinguished engineer and VP, Tim Bray, who resigned over the company's labor practices. Amazon has not responded to Bray's post, in which he said the company had a "lack of vision about the human costs of the relentless growth and accumulation of wealth and power."

Fear Culture

Amazon workers previously told CNBC they've become paranoid that managers aren't being honest about whether employees are sick with the virus. Additionally, when there are confirmed cases or deaths at their facility, workers claim Amazon isn't notifying them quickly enough. 

Amazon said it communicated to MDW8 employees about the worker's passing and also extended its support to his family. 

The company's process of notifying workers about a death at a facility is inherently slower than the process of announcing a confirmed case. Amazon said it notifies workers via a text message or phone call when there are positive cases at a facility. When a worker dies, the company gradually gathers employees in small groups to inform them.

Amazon has been notifying workers of a death in person, rather than over the phone, in an effort to reduce fear and so that managers can inform employees about counseling services should they need extra support.

Due to the coronavirus, Amazon has staggered shifts at its facilities to prevent crowding, which means that certain employees may find out about a death at the facility before others, Amazon said. That's likely to cause some confusion among employees who hear about a death from a coworker before they receive official confirmation from their facility.  

An MDW8 employee disputed Amazon's characterization that all workers at their facility were informed of the individual's death. This worker, who knew the individual who passed away, asked to remain anonymous out of concern that speaking to the press could jeopardize their job. 

The employee said they've spoken to coworkers at their facility who, as of Tuesday, were unaware that an individual had passed away from the virus at MDW8. Instead of informing the entire building, a manager at their facility only informed workers who were on the same shift as the individual, the worker claimed.

Since there was no general announcement of the worker's passing, the worker said other employees in the facility heard "through the grapevine" over the past few weeks that an individual died from the coronavirus. Many workers don't know the name of the individual who died, only that he worked on the overnight shift as a picker.

Communication Chain Broken

Amazon told CNBC that when it learned of the worker's passing, it asked the facility's leaders to communicate the message to teams on the warehouse floor, using appropriate social distancing. Since some workers may not have been on site at that time, they may not have received the message, the company said. Amazon added that it didn't share the identity of the individual who passed out of respect for the family and their privacy. 

When a facility reports a positive case, Amazon will conduct a deep cleaning of the facility. Workers have criticized this response, saying it is an inadequate strategy to prevent further transmission of the virus. 

The MDW8 employee said Amazon didn't shut down the facility after the worker's death was announced. The employee said they were told that the facility would conduct a deep cleaning following the announcement of the worker's death. The worker said cleaning crews in hazmat suits came to the facility and cleaned it section by section, while employees were on the job, including many of he "high traffic touch points" like guardrails and the bins that hold packages.

Amazon said it was not aware of any special cleaning at the facility on April 19, the day after the worker's death.

Five Point Determination Check

 

The company previously said it has been consulting with health authorities and medical experts on how to handle building closures for deep cleaning after an employee tests positive. Amazon evaluates where the employee was in the building, for how long, how much time has passed since they were onsite and who they interacted with, among other things.

The MDW8 employee acknowledged that Amazon has taken many measures to improve safety conditions at their facility. Compared to other Amazon facilities, where, in some cases, there are dozens of positive cases, MDW8 has only reported three confirmed cases, they added. 

However, the employee said they wish there was more of an effort at their facility to recognize the worker's passing and honor their life. 

The worker added: "If someone I know doesn't show up one day and it's because they got sick and died, are we just not going to acknowledge that loss?

Haute Tease

  • Artist Jocelyn Josef Holds Premiere Art Show of Picasso Inspired Cubism

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Join us on July 23rd, 24th or 25th for a unique Pop Up Art show in the heart of Los Feliz. Celebrate  artist Jocelyn Josef, who is featured on Huffington Post Arts & Culture blogwill be showcased at a pop up art event.

     
  • Stonewall - Attention Grabbing, A Fair Overview Presented Well

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Stonewall, from Roadside Attractions and Centropolis Entertainment, presents a fictionalized accounting of the 1969 Stonewall Nightclub Riots in New York City’s Greenwich Village, an actual event that became the catalyst of the modern Gay Rights movement.

     
  • Op/Ed:The Fall Out From Harvey Weinstein Continues

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    The Entertainment Industry is facing its second major sexual assault scandal, in  as many years, with the shocking revelations that everyone seemed to have known, or heard about, and seemed to be generally accepted as commonplace.

     
  • Seal Pup Slaughter Begins

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    As the Seal pup slaughter is set to begin, The International Humane Society and the Humane Society United States (HSUS) have initiated an on-going effort to stop the barbaric massacre on the Canadian Ice Floes.

     
  • Beltway Insider: Trump/Putin Vaca; Mueller’s Grand Jury; North Korea; Minnesota Extremism; Solar Eclipse; Sam Shepard

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    President Donald Trump has left the building and relocated for a working vacation over the next seventeen days to his Southern Jersey Golf Course, while the White House West Wing undergoes much needed and previously approved renovations.

     
  • Home, Décor: Why You Should Hang Custom Artwork in Your Home

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Hanging artwork in a home is a beautiful way to express personal style and make the space both unique and comfortable. Investing in custom artwork takes that self-expression, uniqueness, and style to the next level.

     
  • Cal Phil Chorale Joins Heralded Maestro Victor Vener And His World-Class Orchestra For First Of Spectacular Five Concert Summer Series

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Maestro Victor Vener and the acclaimed California Philharmonic present what promises to be another awe-inspiring summer series of concerts, mixing stage and sound, at the iconic music destination the Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall.

     
  • Unique Lotus Evora Sport 410 Honours Iconic Esprit S1; Tribute To One Of Lotus' Most Famous Liveries

    AddThis Social Bookmark Button

    Representing the state of the Supercar art, a one-off Evora Sport 410 has been commissioned through Lotus Exclusive as a tribute to one of its most famous ancestors, the Lotus Esprit S1.