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Amazon workers plan strike at Michigan warehouse to call for coronavirus protections

Amazon workers at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse strike in demand that the facility be shut down and cleaned after one staffer tested positive for the coronavirus on March 30, 2020 in New York.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

Amazon warehouse workers at a Michigan facility are planning a strike on Wednesday to call for greater protections against the coronavirus. 

Employees at the Romulus, Michigan, facility, known as DTW1, plan to walk out on Wednesday at noon ET, according to a document obtained by CNBC. The workers are demanding that Amazon close DTW1 for two weeks in order to clean the facility, after a worker tested positive last week. News of the strike was first reported by The Verge

Workers at DTW1 received a text message from Amazon, which was also viewed by CNBC, Wednesday morning informing them that a third person has tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Today, we learned of a third confirmed case of COVID-19 at DTW1,” the text message reads. “The affected individual was last seen on site on March 28, and consistent with our daily processes, the site has been undergoing multiple enhanced cleanings during this time.”

Amazon told workers in the text message that it was notifying any co-workers who may have been in contact with the individual who tested positive. The company also said that it wouldn’t penalize any workers who felt uncomfortable coming into work.

Representatives from Amazon weren’t immediately available for comment. 

The strike comes after workers at Amazon’s facility in Staten Island, JFK8, walked out on Monday. Like the strike at DTW1, JFK8 workers demanded that Amazon close down the facility after a worker tested positive. Following the strike, Chris Smalls, the lead organizer of the protest, was fired from his job at Amazon. The company said it fired Smalls for not following social distancing rules after he was quarantined, but Smalls said he was fired for organizing the strike. 

Workers at DTW1 say Amazon was not being transparent about the number of positive cases at the facility. A worker at DTW1, who asked to remain anonymous, previously told CNBC that it was impossible for employees to keep 6 feet apart, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. Because of that, they didn’t feel safe going to work and chose to stay home without a paycheck.

Mario Crippen, a warehouse worker and a lead organizer of the walkout, is calling for Amazon to give workers full pay while the warehouse is shut down, provide “adequate” paid time off to “anyone who needs to stay home,” and provide a plan for when additional positive cases are discovered at fulfillment centers. 

“Amazon says that it values safety and health, but it’s putting us, our families, and our communities in danger,” Crippen said in a statement. “Amazon doesn’t just owe it to workers — it owes it to all of us.”

Tonya Ramsay, a leader of the walkout and a worker at DTW1, said employees are afraid to go to work amid the pandemic and are “disgusted at Amazon’s disregard for our safety and our health and the health of our neighbors.” Ramsay added that despite Amazon and others’ efforts to characterize warehouse workers as heroes on the front lines, she said employees are “working through a crisis not by choice but by necessity.”

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