“For me, it creates a lot of anxiety but I have no control. Once I enter that building, I can only do my part,” said Rina Cummings, a part-time package sorter who works weekends at Amazon’s Staten Island, New York, facility. “Amazon is telling people to wash their hands, but I still notice people aren’t doing it. Nobody is really coming around to ask people if they’re OK, if they’re feeling sick. I feel like they’re not as proactive as they should be.”
In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson said, “the vast majority of our employees around the world continue to come to work and serve the people in their communities in a way that very few can—delivering critical supplies directly to the doorsteps of people who need them.”
“We are going to great lengths to keep the buildings extremely clean and help employees practice important precautions such as social distancing and other measures,” the spokesperson added. “Those who don’t want to come to work are welcome to use paid and unpaid time off options and we support them in doing so.”
In a statement concerning the quarantined Amazon worker in Queens, an Amazon spokesperson told CNN Business the company is supporting the individual, has temporarily closed its Queens delivery station and sent associates home with full pay.
“Since the early days of this situation, we have worked closely with local authorities to proactively respond, ensuring we continue to serve customers while taking care of our associates,” the spokesperson said. “We have implemented proactive measures to protect employees including increased cleaning at all facilities, maintaining social distance, and adding distance between drivers and customers when making deliveries.”
Adam Diaz, organizing director with Warehouse Worker Resource Center, an advocacy group for warehouse workers in Southern California, said warehouses, some of which have thousands of workers in them, are a “powder keg” for the spread of the virus because employees are working side by side for hours at a time. “There’s no room for social distancing. It’s close quarters.”
The company said workers are told not to come to work if they’ve had a fever within the last 24 hours, and that Amazon is preparing to do temperature checks if needed.
Another employee, who works at the Amazon facility in San Antonio and spoke on the condition of anonymity citing a non-disclosure agreement, said there are “a lot of people worried” at the facility.
It is “irresponsible” for Amazon’s warehouses and delivery centers to operate at full capacity given the health concerns, the worker said. “I think we should be at a lower capacity. I’m concerned for the same reason most others are — it is about knowing if I will carry it without showing symptoms.”
A Tale of Two Amazons
Employees told CNN Business the company is also giving the option for workers to claim voluntary extra hours. These include full-day shifts, or 10 extra hours, as well as half days. Workers in the Staten Island facility, for example, are claiming the shifts to work extra hours, according to another worker, despite coronavirus fears.
Eating lunch in the car
As the coronavirus outbreak worsens, Amazon has taken some steps to protect its workforce. Signs in dining locations inside one facility company tell workers to “maintain minimum 3 feet of distance” at lunch tables, according to a photograph taken by a worker and shared with CNN Business. The company has temporarily suspended security checks upon leaving facilities, citing the recommended social distancing of approximately three feet, workers said.
Workers also said hand sanitizer is typically available and that people already tend to wear gloves. Workers can retrieve gloves out of the vending machines in warehouses, where workers can access items free-of-charge by swiping their work badges. Two employees, each at a different facility, told CNN Business that vending machines limit the number of gloves they can get per week to one or two pairs. One of the employees said if their gloves became contaminated within the week, they have asked a supervisor for use of their badge to get a new pair of gloves from the machine.
Amazon denies there are any limits on the amount of gloves workers can take. A spokesperson said the company would look into the matter. The company said that it has also spread out tables in break rooms and shifted start times and break times to further promote social distancing.
Still, some are resorting to taking their own preventative measures, such as eating meals in the parking lot and trying to be careful when in the locker area, where workers are asked to store loose items.
As a packer at the company’s Staten Island facility, who asked to be anonymous for fear of retribution, put it: To wade through all the people in the locker area, “you have to walk sideways.”