ROMULUS, Mich. (WXYZ) — On Wednesday, Amazon workers walked out the door of the Romulus warehouse to protest work conditions. They say they are scared for the health of themselves and their families. This comes as they received word that three of their co-workers are now home sick with COVID-19 (coronavirus).
Amazon workers want the warehouse shut down for two weeks to ensure the virus doesn’t spread to more people.
“You have people coughing and sneezing as you are walking and something needs to be done,” said Tonya Ramsey, who says she works at Amazon’s Romulus Warehouse, also known as DTW1.
“I stand for everybody here beside me," said Mario Chippen, another worker. "I want DTW 1 to be shut down immediately for professional cleaning."
Ramsey said social distancing isn't happening at the warehouse, which causes anxiety around the potential spread of the virus.
“You are not really doing social distancing," Ramsey said. "There’s about 500 to 600 people in the building on a daily basis. In some areas we are shoulder-to-shoulder and can’t be 6 feet away."
Another concern for Amazon workers in Romulus is the sale of non-essential items.
“They should not be selling non-essential items," Chippen said. "If you go on the website, all the essential items are sold out."
The warehouse employs about 4,000 workers, according to Amazon. Workers who are out protesting say that if the company were to stop selling non-essential items it could temporarily decrease staff and allow social distancing.
This @Amazon worker said he’d understand if they cut hours and stayed open selling essentials as they come in stock. But with all the non essential items they’re forced to work “shoulder to shoulder.” He says 3 co-workers are confirmed to have the virus. @JeffBezos comment? pic.twitter.com/H2Vb9sWacI— Kim Russell WXYZ (@kimrussell7) April 1, 2020
“Dildos are not essential items,” said Chippen, who added that every day he packages a massive amount of dildos.
Another worker said he understands the need for customers to get their orders, but not at the expense of workers' health.
“We want to get the customers their product, but our lives matter as well,” said worker Ryan Stepney.
Seven Action News reached out to Amazon for comment after getting video of approximately 30 people protesting. The company did not respond to questions about the employee suggestions that it stopped selling non-essential items during this emergency to decrease the need for staff and improve social distancing in the facility.
The statement read, “Of the over 4,000 employees at our Romulus, MI fulfillment center, less than 15 people, participated in today’s demonstration. Our employees are heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items they need in this crisis. Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable. We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances. The truth is the vast majority of employees continue to show up and do the heroic work of delivering for customers every day.”
Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
Read our daily Coronavirus Live Blog for the latest updates and news on coronavirus.
Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.
Find out how you can help metro Detroit restaurants struggling during the pandemic.
See all of our Helping Each Other stories.
See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.