Seventh Amazon Worker Dies Of COVID As Staff Scared To Return

While Amazon restores regular delivery times for most of its products and is set to reduce hazard pay for its warehouse workers, a new report this week indicates that the seventh warehouse employee recently died from COVID-19.

The Verge reports, a warehouse worker at distribution center IND8, located in Indianapolis, Indiana, died on April 30 after contracting the disease. Several workers at the warehouse found out about the death and confronted management, who initially failed to inform staff about the passing. It was only after the confrontation that management became more transparent about the death: 

"They weren't going to say anything if it wasn't for people asking questions," an IND8 worker told The Verge, who asked to remain anonymous, considering Amazon has had a history of firing employees who speak up. 

The death at IND8 is the second in the state. Virus-related deaths of Amazon warehouse employees have also been reported at Jeffersonville, Indiana; Staten Island and Bethpage, New York; Waukegan, Illinois; and Hawthorne and Tracy, California, which brings the total count to seven during the pandemic. 

Amazon has quickly silenced workers and fired anyone who has voiced an opinion about workplace safety and or virus infections at warehouses. We noted this back in late March, a Staten Island warehouse employee organized a strike among colleagues, which was an attempt to force the company to disinfect the facility after a rash of virus cases. Days later the employee who organized the strike was fired

Former Amazon employee Chris Smalls 

A top engineer at Amazon Web Services quit his job in early May after he was fed up with the company silencing workers who spoke up about workplace safety at warehouses. 

Another IND8 worker, who requested anonymity, said: "Before we had the unlimited UPT [unpaid time off] so if people didn't feel safe, they didn't have to come to work. "When that went away, we went from having one hundred twenty five people back to four to five hundred people per shift. It's really crowded."

That worker and others are afraid the company is forcing people back to work who may be sick and could lead to a second virus wave at warehouses. Amazon offers paid leave for workers diagnosed with the virus, and partial pay for those who exhibit symptoms but do not test positive. The Verge noted this week (May 11-15), one shift of workers at IND8 were sent after someone tested positive for COVID-19. It was noted that the facility remained open for the next shift. 

Despite the thermal monitoring of employees and rigorous disinfecting, IND8 workers are still terrified to come to work. One employee said: "We're not essential," said a worker. "Everyone's like, why are we not shut down?"

The Verge said workers have recently received "six notifications about positive cases" at IND8. 

By mid-May, more than 800 Amazon workers across the country have been tested positive for COVID-19.