(WXYZ) — Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Dingell co-authored a letter to OSHA requesting the agency investigate work conditions at Amazon Fulfillment Centers. The company is accused of failing to protect employees from COVID-19.
The lawmakers specifically asked for intervention regarding the Romulus warehouse where they say dozens of employees have tested positive.
"I told the Amazon executives, 'Lives are so critically important right now. People can wait to get their toilet paper. People can wait to get their cell phone chargers,'" Tlaib told 7 Action News.
Tlaib and Dingell say Amazon workers at the Romulus warehouse have been reaching out to their offices since March, saying the company is only paying lip service when it comes to protecting its 4,000 employees.
Early last month, Amazon workers protested outside Romulus hub after employees nationwide tested positive for the coronavirus. That includes positive cases at the Romulus warehouse, known as DTW1.
Tlaib and Dingell have formally asked OSHA through the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate. The allegations outlined in their letter are as follows:
• Workers have observed no increase in facility cleanings or the availability of cleaning supplies.
• Workers have reported seeing a facility-wide cleaning just once, and cleaning products are difficult to find and not readily available at workstations.
• Workstations are only three feet apart in some places, rendering social distancing impossible.
• Workers who complained to management have been threatened with discipline or termination.
• Management continues to spread misinformation about social distancing, including telling employees that a person is not as risk of exposure unless they stood within six feet of an individual who tested positive for more than 15 minutes.
• Amazon’s demanding “Time Off Task” limits and quotas have not been adjusted to allow workers enough time to wash their hands, use the restroom, or abide by social distancing. • Workers are not notified with any specificity of positive cases amongst their co-workers.
• Workers are not provided with information about what shifts and workstations employees who tested positive worked at, and workers receive notification three to seven days after the positive test is known. At least 25 individuals who work at DTW1 have tested positive for COVID-19.
• Amazon’s worker leave policies do not allow Amazon workers to stay home from work to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Sick workers are going to Amazon facilities, as even workers in medically ordered quarantine are being denied paid leave unless they can produce a positive COVID-19 test result. Amazon has ended its unlimited unpaid time off policy, and multiple employees who cannot safely report to work as long as Amazon warehouses remain hotspots for infection have reported being denied a personal leave of absence.
Tlaib told 7 Action News, "Profits can't come over people. These are... I want folks to understand this could be your sister, your mother, your brother, your cousin. These are loved ones that need to be protected in the workplace."
7 Action News received the following statement from Amazon in response:
“As people across Michigan and the country stay home, our workers are enabling communities and customers – especially the most vulnerable among us – to get the critical items they need during this crisis. Amazon’s commitment to protecting our team members is clear and has never been stronger. It’s surprising that Reps. Dingell and Tlaib are calling for measures that are already in place – something we’ve explained to them in great detail on two separate occasions. We invite them to visit any one of our fulfillment centers so they can see firsthand rather than repeatedly asking the same questions.” – Amazon spokesperson