An Amazon employee says the company cut him loose for organizing a strike over safety conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic at a warehouse in New York City. Chris Smalls, who worked at a fulfillment center in Staten Island and walked off the job with a group of employees on Monday, told Bloomberg TV that “taking action cost me my job.” “Because I tried to stand up for something that’s right, the company decided to retaliate against me,” he said. The workers demanded that Amazon temporarily shutter the fulfillment center for a thorough cleaning, saying several co-workers had been diagnosed with the new coronavirus. Employees say 60 people participated in the strike, while Amazon said there were only 15.
The tech giant told Bloomberg it had fired Smalls for violating safety regulations, including flouting a 14-day quarantine order after he came into contact with another worker who’d been diagnosed with the coronavirus. “Mr. Smalls received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines and putting the safety of others at risk,” Amazon said. Smalls “was asked to remain home with pay for 14 days, which is a measure we’re taking at sites around the world. Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came on site today, March 30, further putting the teams at risk.”
Later on Monday, New York State Attorney General Letitia James said on Twitter that she was calling for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to investigate the incident.