May 07, 2020

Warren, Sanders, Booker, Brown & Colleagues Call for More Information from Jeff Bezos on Amazon's Firing of Whistleblowers

Senators' Letter Comes After Reports of Amazon Firing At Least Four Workers that Publicly Raised Concerns about Safety at Amazon Warehouses Amid COVID-19

"In order to understand how the termination of employees that raised concerns about health and safety conditions did not constitute retaliation for whistleblowing, we are requesting information about Amazon's policies regarding grounds for employee discipline and termination."

Text of Letter (PDF) 

Washington, DC - United States Senator Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and their colleagues called on Amazon to provide more information on its discipline and termination policies after reports of at least four workers being fired after publicly raising concerns about safety conditions at Amazon warehouses amid COVID-19. 

"Given the clear public history of these four workers' advocacy on behalf of health and safety conditions for workers in Amazon warehouses preceding their terminations, and Amazon's vague public statements regarding violations of "internal policies," we are seeking additional information to understand exactly what those internal policies are," wrote the senators.

Since the pandemic began, there have been at least four public reports of cases where Amazon has fired workers following their public whistleblowing. Recently, Christian Smalls was fired for raising safety concerns at the Amazon warehouse in Staten Island where he worked for 5 years. Reportedly, Mr. Smalls was "trying to persuade senior warehouse officials to close the building and sterilize it, but to no avail." When management did not respond, Mr. Smalls helped organize a walkout and Amazon fired him after the walkout - and then designed a public relations strategy to undermine him and worker safety.

To date, more than 100 Amazon warehouses have reportedly had positive coronavirus cases, according to internal tracking by United for Respect. At least three Amazon warehouse employees have died from COVID-19, including a worker in the facility where Mr. Smalls was fighting for safety protections. In April, hundreds of Amazon tech and warehouse workers held "sick out" protests and pledged to call out of work. On May 4, an Amazon Vice President announced he had resigned "in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19." 

In addition to Senators Warren, Sanders, Booker, and Brown, the letter was signed by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Edward J. Markey, Richard Blumenthal, Kamala D. Harris, and Tammy Baldwin.

The senators noted in their letter that Amazon's response to ensuring safety for its workers during this crisis has not been sufficient. Employers have a statutory duty to ensure workplaces are "free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm" to employees." CEO Jeff Bezos and Amazon owe the American public answers on why the company is firing its workers for raising concerns about health and safety during a global pandemic. The senators asked a series of questions on discipline and termination policies to be answered by no later than May 20th.