Right now, frontline workers speaking out against unsafe workplace conditions face the threat of retaliation. Amazon already fired six employees after they had sounded the alarm on corporate practices that could lead to the spread of COVID-19. To survive this pandemic we need frontline workers to feel safe in blowing the whistle. Fill out the form below to demand Congress pass legislation to protect workers from employer retaliation.
Workers have been fired after alerting the public about unsafe workplace conditions that risk exacerbating the spread of COVID-19. A disproportionate number of workers facing retaliation are black, brown, low income, immigrants, and women. We need Congress to safeguard millions of warehouse, grocery store, healthcare, and other essential workers on the frontlines everyday to provide all of us with essential products needed for daily life.
Legislation for frontline workers is necessary for us to get through this pandemic as safely as possible. To protect employees from the threat of retaliation and COVID-19 the following provisions must be included in any legislation:
Amazon is the second largest private employer in the United States, and it is significantly expanding its workforce during the crisis. While Amazon expands, their warehouse, delivery, and Whole Food grocery store workers are risking contracting and spreading COVID-19 in order to provide essential goods. There are reportedly already over 100 warehouses with positive cases of the virus and there have been five deaths from COVID-19. If large corporations like Amazon fail to listen to their workers and take necessary precautions, COVID-19 could more easily spread throughout our communities.
Warehouse workers have walked out of Amazon facilities in New York, Detroit, Chicago, and workers at Whole Foods held a national sick-out. These workers risked their jobs and other forms of retaliation to demand better health and safety measures needed to limit the spread of COVID-19. These demands include adjusting quotas and warehouse protocols to make it possible for workers to stay six feet apart, providing personal protective equipment for every shift worked, shutting down and cleaning facilities with positive cases of COVID, and changing paid sick leave policy to allow those exposed and sick workers without access to testing to stay home.
Since this crisis began, Amazon has fired at least four warehouse workers after they spoke out against health and safety conditions, and all four are Black. This apparent pattern is particularly disturbing when Black and brown workers are disproportionately risking the health of their families and communities in “essential” jobs. The lack of whistleblower protections facilitates discrimination and mistreatment of Black and brown workers with little oversight and inadequate legal right of action. Too often, Black and brown voices are silenced--our leaders must address discriminatory practices and systemic racism in legislating policies for greater worker empowerment.
On April 2nd, Amazon announced that it would expand its workplace surveillance network to monitor facilities and employ AI to dynamically monitor and detect problems. Instead of taking responsibility for workplace safety, warehouse workers have reported that Amazon is punitively using camera footage to find, warn, and eventually fire employees who come within six feet of each other.
Amazon’s extensive surveillance risks silencing dissent. It gives the technology giant the power to track specific workers and monitor them for any possible infraction. According to leaked documents, Whole Foods reportedly creates a risk score to understand where workers might be more likely to organize. This creates an atmosphere of fear and interferes with the right of workers to speak out and engage in collective action. Employees already allege that Amazon retaliates against workers who voice health and safety concerns. This workplace surveillance poses a dangerous threat to worker rights, their safety, and public health.
Given the immediate public health risks, we are calling for an urgent expansion and improved enforcement of legal protections for workers who speak out and take collective action against dangerous workplace conditions that risk exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 in communities. Workers themselves are in the best position to raise health and safety concerns, and if these concerns are ignored, or worse, if workers are retaliated against, it not only impacts those workers and their families, but risks accelerating the current public health crisis.
Over the last few weeks, Amazon fired at least six workers who had spoken out about unsafe working conditions in warehouses. In addition to these firings, other workers at Amazon have reported receiving arbitrary work-related warnings as a result of speaking out or participating in walkouts, and they fear that they are being set-up for termination. Given that Amazon is the second largest private employer in the United States and is significantly expanding its workforce during the crisis, this apparent pattern of retaliation is alarming.
Thousands of warehouse, delivery, and grocery workers are on the front lines of this fight, risking contracting and spreading COVID-19 every day in order to provide essential goods. This risk disproportionately falls on communities of color, who are more likely to hold these jobs and more vulnerable to the virus, as a result of the systemic racism that undermines health in these communities.
These essential workers are calling for common sense measures in line with CDC guidance: implementation of six feet of distance between all individuals in the facility, personal protective equipment for all, time for handwashing, temporarily closing and cleaning exposed facilities to allow for quarantine, independent and transparent reporting, and paid leave policies to help exposed and sick workers to stay home.
Instead of adopting policies to protect workers, corporations are increasingly adopting invasive surveillance technologies to penalize and monitor lower-wage workers. This already predatory surveillance could too easily be turned against protected concerted activity and workers voicing concerns. We know that the mere presence of pervasive surveillance is likely to silence dissent, but not to protect health.
People who take action and speak out are not only exercising their legally protected right to protest and organize collectively for safe working conditions, but also acting in the national interest and protecting public health. Large facilities like warehouses, factories, and meatpacking plants employ thousands of people and grocery stores are major points of social interaction — if necessary precautions are not taken, COVID-19 could easily spread throughout communities. The right to demand better health and safety measures needs to be protected in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The current crisis has elevated workplace whistleblowing and collective action to a matter of national health and additional protection and enforcement measures are urgently necessary.
Access Now, Action Center on Race and the Economy, AI Now, Alternate ROOTS, Athena Coalition, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, Color of Change, Community Justice Exchange, Constitutional Alliance, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Defending Rights & Dissent, Demand Progress Education Fund, Ella Baker Center, Fight for the Future, Free Press, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Global Action Project, Government Accountability Project, Instituto de Educacion Popular del Sur de California, Just Futures Law, Line Break Media, Make the Road New Jersey, Make the Road New York, Media Mobilizing Project, MediaJustice, MPower Change, Muslim Advocates, National Employment Law Project (NELP), National Immigration Law Center, New America Center on Education and Labor, New America's Open Technology Institute, New York Communities for Change, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Open Markets Institute, Open MIC (Open Media and Information Companies Initiative), Partnership for Working Families, People Demanding Action, People For the American Way, PeoplesHub, Project Censored, Project On Government Oversight, Public Citizen, RootsAction.org, RYSE Center, Secure Justice, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP). The Awood Center, The Civil Liberties Defense Center, The Tully Center for Free Speech, United for Respect, United We Dream, Warehouse Worker Resource Center, Whistleblower & Source Protection, Program at ExposeFacts, Woodhull Freedom Foundation, XLab