Leaders of nation’s largest labor unions pressure Amazon, CEO Jeff Bezos on coronavirus response

Leaders of America’s largest labor unions, 45 New York elected officials and a group of Amazon employees called on Amazon to change its warehouse policies and practices in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Their letter, to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and other senior executives, amplifies calls made by Amazon warehouse workers, including some who went on strike in New York on Monday to protest the company’s handling of the outbreak. An unknown number of Amazon employees around the company’s fulfillment and delivery network — including a confirmed coronavirus case at a Seattle-area warehouse last week — have fallen ill with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, as the pandemic has strained its operations like never before. The letter marks a new level of focus on Amazon by organized labor, which previously has had little success organizing the company’s workers outside of Europe, and comes amid growing unrest among gig economy and warehouse workers whose services have taken on new importance amid widespread stay-at-home orders and economic disruptions. Read the whole story at Seattle Times

America's Top Unions Demand Amazon Do Better

Dear Jeff Bezos and Amazon Executives: We write to you today shocked at reports that Amazon warehouses are not practicing the protocolsnecessary to protect the well-being of your workers and of the public. And we are outraged to hear that not only did Amazon executives NOT promptly address the concernsbeing articulated by your own workers, but you actually fired one of the lead whistleblowers immediatelyfollowing his courageous action Monday. We call for the swift reinstatement of Chris Smalls to reassureall workers and observers that speaking out about improvements needed to health and safety practicesright now is not only tolerated, but WELCOMED as critically important to all of our well-being. You claim to have adopted a number of practices to sanitize worksites and protect workers. But acompelling number of workers have come forward - and even run the incredible personal risk of walkingoff the job - to report that the actual situation in warehouses does not match Amazon’s public relationsstatements. They report that the circumstances of their work make it impossible to comply with publichealth protocols - reporting crowded spaces, a required rate of work that does not allow for propersanitizing of work spaces, and empty containers meant to hold sanitizing wipes. Your workers deserveto have full protections and to be confident that they are not carrying COVID-19 home to their families.And the safety of your workers also impacts the safety of everyone who touches or receives packagesonce they leave your warehouses. We write in support of your own workers calling for you to CLOSE Amazon warehouses until you putinto place real solutions - with independent monitors - to protect your workers and the public in thismoment of public health crisis. We support workers who are calling for warehouse closures with full pay for all workers whodepend on those warehouses for their income, until you put into place the following protocols: Independent health and safety inspection and ongoing monitoring to ensure compliancewith CDC and other governing health guidelines. 100% pay for all employees during sanitation closures. Cancel all rate and productivity requirements which limit employee time for propersanitation, including “Time Off Task” for all workers. Stricter protocols for six foot distancing measures. Cover childcare expenses for employees given district wide school closures. Full pay for all workers who cannot return to work because of their own or family member illnessor out of need to self-quarantine - for themselves or loved ones. Retroactive pay for workers who have needed to take unpaid time off over the past month dueto COVID-19 and its effects on our communities. Issue a public statement of improved protocols - for the safety of your workers and thepublic.   SIGNATORIES: Rich Trumka on behalf of the AFL-CIO Stuart Appelbaum on behalf of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Lee Saunders on behalf of the American Federation of State, County and MunicipalEmployees Marc Perrone on behalf of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Randi Weingarten on behalf of the American Federation of Teachers Mary Kay Henry on behalf of the Service Employees International Union James Hoffa on behalf of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Amazon Employees for Climate Justice   ELECTED OFFICIALS of NEW YORK STATE NYC Public Advocate Jumaane WilliamsNYC Comptroller Scott StringerNYC Council Speaker Corey JohnsonNYC Council Finance Chair Daniel DrommNYC Council Labor Chair Daneek MillerNYC Council Member Adrienne AdamsNYC Council Member Diana AyalaNYS Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael GianarisNYS Senate Labor Chair Jessica RamosNYS Senator David CarlucciNYS Senator Brad HoylmanNYS Senator Gustavo Rivera NYS Assembly Assistant Speaker Félix W. OrtizNYS Assembly Member Robert CarrollNYS Assembly Member William ColtonNYS Assembly Member Catalina CruzNYS Assembly Member Nathalia FernandezNYS Assembly Member Ron KimNYS Assembly Member Latoya JoynerNYS Assembly Member Daniel O’DonnellNYS Assembly Member Robert RodriguezNYS Assembly Member Linda RosenthalNYS Assembly Member Nily RozicNYS Assembly Member Aravella Simotas NYC Public Advocate Jumaane WilliamsNYC Comptroller Scott StringerNYC Council Speaker Corey JohnsonNYC Council Finance Chair Daniel DrommNYC Council Labor Chair Daneek MillerNYC Council Member Adrienne AdamsNYC Council Member Diana AyalaNYS Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael GianarisNYS Senate Labor Chair Jessica RamosNYS Senator David CarlucciNYS Senator Brad HoylmanNYS Senator Gustavo Rivera  

COVID-19: Firing Of Amazon Worker Who Organized Walkout Sparks Backlash

Stuart Appelbaum, the President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union added that “workers should be protected when speaking out about safety conditions during this crisis. "They are performing a public service. It is unacceptable that Amazon has terminated Chris Smalls for doing that today rather than addressing their serious COVID-19 safety problems.” read the story at Dailyvoice.com

Macy’s, Kohl’s extend nationwide store closings, furloughs employees

"Macy’s ‘needs to do much more for its employees than what they have announced so far’, Stuart Appelbaum, president of the retail, wholesale and department store union, said in a statement. ‘They will be judged in the future by how they treat their employees now.’” see the story here at KLFY

Macy’s, Gap to Furlough Most Workers as Coronavirus Crisis Keeps Stores Closed

“Roughly 8% of Macy’s workers are unionized and it isn’t clear how the furloughs will apply to them in particular. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents roughly 6,000 Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s employees in the New York region, is in discussions with the retailer over employee pay and benefits, according to union President Stuart Appelbaum. ‘Macy’s needs to do much more for its employees than what they have announced so far,’ he said. The union had already negotiated that its workers get paid for the first two weeks that stores were closed, under an agreement that expires April 1, according to a union spokeswoman.” Read about it here at the WSJ

AMAZON FIRING STATEMENT FROM RWDSU PRESIDENT STUART APPELBAUM

(NEW YORK, NY) – Chris Smalls, the worker who helped organize a walkout from an Amazon fulfillment center today, was informed that he would be dismissed from his position late this afternoon. Workers at Amazon’s JFK8 facility walked out due to the company’s lack of safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) issued the following statement:   “Workers should be protected when speaking out about safety conditions during this crisis. They are performing a public service. It is unacceptable that Amazon has terminated Chris Smalls for doing that today rather than addressing their serious COVID-19 safety problems.”  

MACY’S FURLOUGH RESPONSE STATEMENT FROM RWDSU PRESIDENT STUART APPELBAUM

"RWDSU members at Macy’s are covered under a collective bargaining agreement. Two weeks ago, we negotiated historic provisions for workers that expire on April 1st. Critically it included plans to negotiate future terms, which we are still doing. Macy's needs to do much more for its employees than what they have announced so far -- and we are pushing them to do that. They will be judged in the future by how they treat their employees now," said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).                                                              # # #    

AMAZON JFK8 STATEMENT FROM RWDSU PRESIDENT STUART APPELBAUM

(NEW YORK, NY) – Workers at Amazon’s JFK8 facility will walk out tomorrow due to the company’s lack of safety protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) issued the following statement:   “All employers need to prioritize the health and safety of their workforce at this time.  Unfortunately, Amazon appears to be prioritizing maximizing its enormous profits even over its employees’  safety - and that is unacceptable.”    # # #  

What grocery store workers need: A union leader on how to help employees stressed by the coronavirus crisis

By Stuart Appelbaum Chilling stories have appeared putting a grim spotlight on the increasing danger faced by grocery store workers in Italy, which, up until now, has been the hardest hit by the coronavirus health crisis. The stories have detailed the tragic death of 49-year old Mariagrazia Casanova in the city of Brescia, but also the sometimes lax and haphazard implementation of social distancing and worker protection for supermarket workers throughout the country, and the increasing number of sick workers. For these workers, there is a spreading and palpable sense of fear, vulnerability and helplessness as they perform their crucial jobs every day. So much about the situation in Italy has foreshadowed what we are experiencing in the U.S., and now, we are seeing signs of a similar crisis at our own supermarkets. Read the whole piece at the NY Daily News

Could the coronavirus outbreak lead to a wave of unionization in retail?

The Coronavirus outbreak has led workers from all kinds of industries to push for greater protections from their employers. Retail is no exception. At retail stores that have been classified as essential, like pharmacies and groceries, some workers are pushing for hazard pay, as they grow increasingly worried that coming into their stores each day means putting their personal health at risk. They’re also asking for their employers to provide them with personal protective equipment, like masks and gloves. Meanwhile, some workers at stores like GameStop and Joann Fabrics have tangled with managers over the fact that they believe corporate has wrongly classified their stores as essential. This begs the question of how, once the coronavirus outbreak slows, which temporary changes to a retailer’s paid sick leave policy or pay increases will stick. One potential outcome: that more retail workers will seek to unionize. read more about it here at Modern Retail