There’s one bright spot in the dismal pandemic economy. Amazon is trying something that no company has attempted before: supplying the essential needs of 325 million Americans largely confined to their homes during a pandemic, while keeping its own workforce of more than 500,000 people safe. Yet some politicians are trying to make it a scapegoat.
To be sure, the company has made mistakes. Business Insider reported April 23 that more than 30 workers in a New Jersey warehouse had contracted Covid-19, and dozens of cases had earlier been reported at Amazon warehouses across the country. Four Amazon workers have reportedly died from the virus. And Amazon has fired at least four workers who protested against company policies during the pandemic. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called the firings “obscene.” Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar tweeted that “Amazon is retaliating against union organizers *and* refusing to provide basic protective equipment to workers.”
These politicians are carrying water for a labor pressure campaign. Unions like the United Food and Commercial Workers have sought to organize Amazon’s warehouses for years. They’re taking advantage of the renewed public focus on the company amid the pandemic to try again. “Now, more than ever, corporations like Amazon must be held responsible for failing to keep its frontline workers from being exposed to the coronavirus outbreak,” UFCW President Marc Perronesaid on April 16.
What exactly has Amazon done since the nation went into lockdown? It announced plans to hire an additional 100,000 people, made good, then said it would hire another 75,000. Before the outbreak, Amazon’s minimum hourly rate for U.S. employees was $15. It has since kicked that up to $17 and made overtime double pay, not time-and-a-half. All this while more than 33 million Americans filed for unemployment.
Amazon says it is also “waiving certain fees, pausing loan repayment . . . and relaxing our policies around shipping-related performance metrics” for selling partners to help them stay afloat.
Read the full article at The Wall Street Journal.