In an open letter to Jeff Bezos and John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, a coalition of AGs Amazon jointly called for strengthening protection for a tense workforce amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter, written by Massachusetts State AG Maura Healey – along with attorneys general Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and DC – will follow a similar announcement from members in late March.
"Amazon and Whole Foods must take all possible steps to protect their employees and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic," Healey said in a press release related to the letter. "We again urge these companies to ensure that they comply with federal laws and guidelines to ensure the safety of key workers during this crisis."
The notice addresses issues related to sick leave, security measures, Amazon employee notification guidelines, and a number of high-profile layoffs. The last bit was enough to justify a similarly themed letter from nine prominent democratic senators asking whether the company had fired employees in retaliation for whistleblowing due to unsafe working conditions.
"Such behavior, if proven, may violate Section 11 (c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (29 USC, §660 (c)) and laws in certain states that prohibit retaliation," the AGs write. "Even retaliation during this public health emergency can serve to silence employees who raise legitimate health and safety concerns and expose those employees, their employees, customers and the public to a serious risk. "
The new letter takes the additional step to highlight the behavior of Whole Foods owned by Amazon. "We are concerned that our offices and the public will learn about these serious developments through second-hand media reports instead of hearing directly from Whole Foods," the letter added. "Accordingly, we encourage Whole Foods to provide a description of its policies and processes, as appropriate, that relate to informing consumers, the general public and health authorities about serious COVID-19 developments in the company's businesses."
Amazon has of course denied allegations of whistleblower dismissal and insisted that it take the necessary measures while employees continue to work on the pandemic. The letter concludes by stating that both Amazon and Whole Foods "are also experiencing significant sales growth as consumers are more dependent on online shopping and buying more groceries when they stay at home."