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caption: Amazon cargo handler Matt Smith.
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Amazon cargo handler Matt Smith.
Credit: Matt Smith

Cargo handler, Sawant say Amazon could do more to protect employees during coronavirus pandemic

Amazon has confirmed one worker at its Kent warehouse has COVID-19. Amazon workers at a New York warehouse went on strike Monday, asking for more protection from the coronavirus.

Workers say the tech giant is putting them at risk with non-essential delivery assignments.

Some of the stuff Amazon delivers is essential: medicine and food, for example. But cargo handler Matt Smith says a lot of what he delivers for Amazon is not.

“I’m delivering trampolines, I’m delivering bean bag chairs," he said, "I’m delivering things that are not essential other than for the essential purpose of padding the pockets of Jeff Bezos and Amazon shareholders.”

Smith said he’s making these non-essential deliveries without hand sanitizer in his truck, because Amazon won’t give him any.

Workers around the world have been asking Amazon for better protection against the coronavirus.

In a statement, Amazon said it does provide drivers with hand sanitizer, but has struggled with shortages. And it’s prioritizing essential deliveries over non-essential.

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant said Amazon needs to do more to help the average worker through the coronavirus crisis.

“They’re making a profit at a time when thousands of small businesses in the region who are already struggling have completely gone belly up,” she said.

While many businesses are laying off workers, Amazon is hiring 100,000 new workers. The company has also donated $5 million to help businesses near its headquarters survive economic downturn caused by the coronavirus and social distancing.

KUOW reporter Joshua McNichols is looking for Amazon Flex drivers and warehouse workers. Contact him at jmcnichols@kuow.org or via direct message on Twitter at @joshuamcnichols .