Amazon and other essential workers in Queens deliver demands to Cuomo

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Demonstrators are calling on the Gov. to sign the NY hero Act.
Photo by Dean Moses

The pressure on Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign the NY Hero Act is mounting day by day.

Organized by the NY Essential Workers Coalition, essential workers, activist organizations, and Teamsters Local 804 rallied outside of what will be Amazon’s Queens warehouse on Thursday morning. The action was intended to show solidarity with Amazon workers who say they have been mistreated in the workplace while also pushing for new legislation that would protect them from growing ill due to airborne diseases as the city begins its reopening measures.  Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on April 29, that New York City aims to fully reopen on July 1.

The modest gathering erected parcel boxes with frowns inscribed over them at the foot of 38-50 21st Street in Long Island City. Behind this Jenga tower of boxes, demonstrators gripped banners and waved signs. Amidst this gaggle of activists and sympathetic cohorts, workers who have experienced the woes of the pandemic in the field, toiling while others quarantined spoke about their experiences.

A pile of angry parcel boxers sat on the sidewalk. Photo by Dean Moses

According to Jonathan Bailey, co-founder of Amazonians United, workers like him has helped big business earnings skyrocket, while employers refused to ensure the safety of those who increased their profit margins.

“As an Amazon worker, I have seen Jeff Bezos’ net worth grow by $100 billion since I have been working at Amazon—that is ridiculous.  While that has happened, we have had our hazard pay taken away, hazard pay that we were given for a few weeks as if that was some kind of token to keep us complacent. They do not care about our needs,” Bailey said.

It is with horror stories like these and others involving workers contracting COVID-19 while on the job due to lack of PPE that has essential workers everywhere standing in solidarity to demand the governor sign the NY Hero Act. Dr. Michael Del Valle joined the rally to make a gut-wrenching plea to Cuomo, begging for the bill to be signed. As a medical professional he described chilling memories from over the last year that could have been preventable if people were properly protected.

Dr. Michael Del Valle spoke about the workers he has seen die. Photo by Dean Moses

“For greater than a year I have seen essential workers die in my ER. I have watched the bus driver tearfully phone his daughter, speaking over the hiss of an oxygen mask while we put him on a ventilator he will never wake up from. I have phoned the mother of the warehouse worker, explaining to her the tragic death of her son, and I pray you never have to experience the haunting wails and sobs of a mother understanding that she has outlived her child. Governor Cuomo, on behalf of the over 6,000 CIR physicians in New York right now. We call on you to sign the NY Hero Act right now without changes. We need you to keep New Yorkers safe in their workplaces, so they don’t end up in mine,” Dr. Del Valle said, an emergency medicine resident at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.

Teamsters Local 804 stood in solidity with Amazon workers. Photo by Dean Moses

If signed, the NY Hero Act would make it illegal for employers not to provide workers with appropriate PPE and enforce other safety standards within the workplace as the pandemic begins to wind down. And despite vaccine dispersal being widely available as many hubs begin to offer walk-in appointments, workers at the rally made a point to remind the Big Apple that COVID-19 still exists and as regulations ease, workers will face greater risk from the deadly virus.   

amNewYork Metro reached out to Amazon and Gov. Cuomo’s office for comment.  

Boxes, banners, signs, and chants called for essential worker protections. Photo by Dean Moses