Coronavirus News: Fired Amazon worker to lead protest in Staten Island

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The amazon worker who organized a one-day walkout last week over working conditions during the current health crisis is mobilizing a rally for Monday.

Chris Smalls sent out a text announcing that the protest will take place at Amazon's Staten Island facility.

Smalls has called for the company to halt operations because of the pandemic.

Amazon said he was fired, violating the company's quarantine rules.

Smalls had said the company is not being honest with employees about the number of colleagues who have tested positive for the virus in recent days and that management has only confirmed that one worker at the warehouse has come down with the virus.

"That's a bold face lie because I sent home the third case directly," Smalls said, adding that he had known last week of a total of seven cases at the facility that employs more than 4,000 people.

Smalls said the company placed him on quarantine last Saturday because he came in close contact with a worker who tested positive. He said he sent the infected worker home on Tuesday when she was showing symptoms of illness and that the worker was tested on Wednesday but was allowed to return to work until her test results came back positive on Thursday.

"She already had time to spread it. Her friend caught it. Her friend was the third case," Smalls said. "She tested positive and she's a supervisor in the pack department and the pack department is right before the items go out door to the customers. It's dangerous."

In a statement to ABC News, Amazon said last week that it has been working to keep employees safe at the Staten Island fulfillment center, adding that claims made by Smalls that the company is putting workers in jeopardy were "simply unfounded."

"Our employees are heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items they need in this crisis," Amazon's statement reads. "Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable. We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available, and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances. The truth is the vast majority of employees continue to show up and do the heroic work of delivering for customers every day."

Smalls issued the following statement after being informed of his dismissal from his position late last Monday afternoon:

"Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our families, and our communities safe. I am outraged and disappointed, but I'm not shocked. As usual, Amazon would rather sweep a problem under the rug than act to keep workers and working communities safe.

Today, I stood with my co-workers because conditions at JFK8 are legitimately dangerous for workers and the public. Amazon thinks this might shut me up, but I'm going to keep speaking up. My colleagues in New York and all around the country are going to keep speaking up. We won't stop until Amazon provides real protections for our health and safety and clarity for everybody about what it is doing to keep people safe in the middle of the worst pandemic of our lifetimes."


Amazon said Smalls received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines. Despite instruction to remain home with pay for 14 days, Amazon said he came onsite and put the teams at risk, resulting in the termination of his employment.

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