Amazon Labor Union says 50 employees suspended for refusing to work in ‘unsafe’ Staten Island warehouse after fire

By greatbritton

An unrecognized labor union for an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York said early Wednesday that 50 workers at the location were suspended by the company for participating a walkout after a fire led to unsafe work conditions. Approx. 100 workers staged a march through the warehouse facility Monday night, demanding to be sent home with pay after the fire in a trash compactor outside the facility.

“It’s just point-blank an unsafe work environment,” JFK8 warehouse employee Leo Shockey told CBS New York. Shockey and other workers said the fire left the warehouse filled with smoke to the point where it was unsafe.

In a statement posted to its Twitter page, JFK8’s Amazon Labor Union, a grassroots group of former and current workers still battling Amazon’s management for formal recognition as a union says management suspended “over 50 workers who were involved in last night’s walkout.”

The union called the act “clear retaliation” for the action.

“Amazon workers made a collective decision last night to demand that workers get sent home while the smoke cleared,” the Amazon Labor Union said.

According to CBS NEWS:

When night shift employees started to arrive not long after, they said Amazon managers didn’t tell them about the fire, which caused no injuries.

“There was no message from Amazon whatsoever, so all of us just came to work in an unsafe environment not being told anything,” employee Brett Daniels said.

Employees claim smoke still lingered inside the facility.

“It started making me feel congested. My head was hurting. It was definitely a lot,” Shockey told CBS New York.

“They didn’t show us proof it was safe to work there. They just told us just to work right through it,” added Eli Andino.

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson told CBS New York that the fire department had “certified the building is safe and at that point we asked all night shift employees to report to their regularly scheduled shift.”

Fire officials told CBS New York, however, that while the FDNY had responded to a fire outside the building, it wasn’t clear whether the attending team had inspected conditions inside the facility.

“I don’t think it’s right that I got paid to leave when it’s no more unsafe for them than it was for me,” early shift worker Martinez told CBS New York. “It’s just because they’re losing more money by them missing a 10-hour shift than by me going home two hours early.”

The Washington Post reported, Amazon confirmed the employee suspensions at the JFK8 facility. The newspaper quoted Amazon spokesman Paul Flanigan saying the company respects its workers’ right to protest, but it wasn’t appropriate for staff to occupy workspaces while they were in use, referring to the employees’ protest walk through the warehouse.

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