With a growing list of states ordering "nonessential" companies to shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19, Amazon is giving warehouse and supply workers letters that they are doing essential work.
"This letter serves as evidence that the carrier of this letter is an Amazon employee and as such an employee of an essential company," said a letter to the fulfillment center employees. “This employee does an important job helping Amazon deliver critical supplies right to the front door of people who need them. This allows community workers to stay at home and reduce the risk of exposure and transmission of COVID-19, including the elderly and other vulnerable people. "
The letter on Amazon's letterhead also includes a paragraph addressed to law enforcement agencies with a phone number to verify the carrier's employment. The Verge confirmed that warehouse workers and deliverers have received similar letters this week, with minor variations by role and region.
Although no state has required workers to carry documents, Target and McDonald's advised workers to carry similar letters. In Italy, France, and other countries severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, residents are required to carry forms to show why they have left home. Letters may be a preventive measure if similar measures are taken in the United States. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"This employee is doing an important job of helping Amazon deliver critical supplies."
The Department of Homeland Security believes that warehouses, logistics, food delivery, and other sectors that could fall into Amazon could reasonably be considered essential services, and millions of Americans who have been told to stay at home rely on it the company's distribution network to meet basic needs. To meet growing demand, Amazon stopped delivering unnecessary items to its warehouses last week and announced plans to hire 100,000 additional employees.
However, the company has a long history of injuries and difficult conditions in its warehouses and delivery network. With the proliferation of COVID-19, employees across the country have called for better security measures. Amazon claims to have stepped up cleaning procedures, but employees say cleaning materials are often in short supply and the pace of work doesn't leave time to use them. Amazon stopped team meetings and changed schedules to avoid huddling together. However, employees say that their jobs still often need to be in close proximity. Cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in 15 U.S. camps. Amazon only closed one, a return processing facility in Kentucky, and only after the governor ordered the closure. The company has also failed to notify employees when a coronavirus case has occurred in their facility, so employees can rely on rumors and hearsay.
Last week, a group of senators wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, expressing concern about the safety of Amazon employees during the pandemic and asking what precautions should be taken. The following day, Bezos published a memo listing several security measures, including ordering millions of masks for workers. However, he admitted that the masks are scarce and many of the orders have not yet been fulfilled. The Bezos memo, like the letters to workers, made it clear that during the pandemic the company positioned itself as an essential service and related to “essential work” that cannot be done from home. "We offer an important service to people everywhere, especially people like the elderly who are most at risk," he wrote.
However, it's unclear how long Amazon can continue to offer this service if employees don't feel safe. Many warehouse workers report staying at home instead of risking infection, and drivers report bottlenecks at their delivery stations. The delivery times for some items are already one month or more and threaten to deteriorate if Amazon cannot hire employees.
Last week, the company increased $ 2 an hour's wages and increased overtime wages, but this wasn't enough for many workers. "Ultimately, it's just about being safe," said an employee from a fulfillment center in North Carolina. "Ultimately, it's not about making the dollar."
He went out after hearing rumors that Amazon denied that an employee had tested positive for COVID-19. He is not sure if he will come back.
See the full letter below: