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Amazon warehouse workers protest near Detroit, days after NYC walkout

FILE PHOTO: Small toy figures are seen in front of diplayed Amazon logo in this illustration taken March 19, 2020. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)

BY JEFFERY DASTIN

Amazon.com Inc said on Wednesday a handful of workers staged a demonstration at one of its warehouses near Detroit, another U.S. protest this week over staff concerns about contracting the novel coronavirus on the job.

Amazon said fewer than 15 of more than 4,000 employees at its Romulus, Michigan fulfillment center participated in the action. That followed confirmation that a worker based there had tested positive for the virus, Amazon said. The demonstration has not impacted fulfillment of customer orders, the company said.

The news reflects the operational risks facing the world’s largest online retailer if more workers contract COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and if their peers quit in protest.

Earlier this week, 15 employees at an Amazon fulfillment centers in Staten Island, New York joined a walkout, and dozens more went on strike at a company facility near Florence, Italy.

Amazon fired the organizer of the New York walkout after he allegedly put others at risk by violating a company request to stay at home for two weeks, a dismissal that prompted the city to open an investigation. The organizer had had close contact with a person who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Those protesting near Detroit demanded that Amazon shut down the facility for additional cleaning and cover all medical bills for associates and their family members who contracted the virus from the site, according to a Facebook live stream of the demonstration.

“I feel it’s going to take someone to die for them to finally take action,” protest co-organizer Mario Crippen, 26, said.

Amazon said it has taken “extreme” measures to protect workers, “tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances.”

Cases of COVID-19, which has led to more than 45,000 deaths globally, have been reported from at least 19 of Amazon’s U.S. warehouses.

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