Coronavirus

No, Rep. Ilhan Omar: Amazon's Decision To Fire Three Workers Isn't a 'National Disgrace'

The congresswoman claimed that Amazon is "refusing to provide basic protective equipment to workers." That's not true.

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Amazon has been no stranger to criticism, particularly from left-leaning politicians who scorn the tech behemoth's labor practices. Such critiques are ramping up in the era of COVID-19.

The company fired two of its employees last Friday after they alleged there were unsafe working conditions at Amazon warehouses. Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa—formerly user-experience designers—separately took to Twitter offering to match donations of up to $500 for workers "while they struggle to get consistent, sufficient protections and procedures from our employer," wrote Costa.

The women claim that employees face crowded working conditions with insufficient social distancing practices, that the company is shipping "non-essential goods" despite claiming to have suspended that during the pandemic, that there are insufficient policies on properly disinfecting packaging, and that there are delays in notifying warehouse staff of colleagues' COVID-19 cases.

Both Cunningham and Costa were terminated on April 10, two weeks after drawing attention to these issues. "We support every employee's right to criticize their employer's working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies," Amazon spokesperson Dan Herdener said in a statement, noting that both women "repeatedly" breached such rules.

Another Amazon employee, Bashir Mohamed, was fired last week after he internally protested against the company's coronavirus-related procedures, though Amazon said his dismissal came as a "result of progressive disciplinary action for inappropriate language, behavior, and violating social distancing guidelines."

"This should be a national scandal," Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.) tweeted. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), long a critic of Amazon, echoed Omar's sentiments, calling the terminations "obscene."

So what will this mean for the tech colossus, which is pulling a great deal of economic weight amid the COVID-19 shutdowns?

If history serves as any indication, Amazon could soon find itself surrounded by a renewed push for regulation. In September 2018, for example, Sanders unveiled the Stop BEZOS Act (referencing the company's founder, Jeff Bezos) which sought to tax companies that Sanders alleged had underpaid their employees. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden singled out the company's tax bill last year, arguing that such a mammoth business should pay more of their fair share. The list goes on. 

Amazon's ability to deliver goods far and wide has been a godsend during shelter-in-place orders, allowing the quarantined masses to receive essential goods without ever leaving their homes. Just three days ago, executives announced they were creating an additional 75,000 jobs on top of the 100,000 positions that were added over the last four weeks—all in a clobbered economy, where most businesses are more likely to be laying off staff in droves rather than onboarding them.

But the complaints from both women are bound to raise concerns. Cunningham's March 27 tweets include a video of warehouse workers in Poland exiting the building in alarmingly close quarters, as well as a citation that she says reprimands an employee for taking a two-minute hand-washing break. She quotes a delivery driver who says workers were without proper protective equipment and notes a social-distancing sign in a warehouse that incorrectly calls for three feet of distance as opposed to the current recommendation of six feet.

The company contends it has since made some changes. "We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on cleaning and sanitation, procuring safety supplies such as masks for employees, implementing temperature checks at our facilities, and ensuring all employees are adhering to safe distances in our buildings," Amazon said. The procedural fixes were announced in an April 2 blog post by Dave Clark, the company's senior vice president for worldwide operations. Incorrect, then, is Omar's April 14 tweet, where she claimed that "Amazon is retaliating against union organizers *and* refusing to provide basic protective equipment to workers."

One Amazon employee has died from complications related to COVID-19, which drew the company a barrage of intensified media scrutiny. The man, who succumbed to the disease on March 31, started experiencing symptoms after traveling on vacation to Mexico from March 7-20; management claims he did not return to the warehouse after his trip, which means he probably couldn't have contracted the virus on the job.

Whether Amazon has taken the appropriate steps to maximally protect workers is hard to discern. Though Cunningham's tweets, if true, indicate some working conditions were unsafe, it's also possible they have since improved with the promised adjustments. What's more, it seems that both Cunningham and Costa may have had ulterior motives that partially drove the public airing of their complaints: "We want to tell Amazon that we are sick of all thissick of the firings, sick of the silencing, sick of pollution, sick of racism, and sick of the climate crisis," Costa said during an appearance on yesterday's panel with Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, of which Cunningham was also a member.

Even so, left-leaning politicians didn't need another excuse to zero in on the company, yet now they have one. Notwithstanding the negative publicity, Amazon has largely dodged major regulations in the Trump era. For a business that has recently upgraded itself from a luxury to a potentially life-saving resource—one that has made social distancing possible (and much easier) for many people during a pandemic—consumers should hope it doesn't squander that image by maintaining questionable warehouse working conditions. After all, if Amazon doesn't independently address these problems, then politicians will likely do it for them.

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  1. One of the very few pieces of good news during this #DrumpfDepression is that at least Jeff Bezos is prospering. His net worth is up over $30 billion this year and currently sits at a respectable $145 billion. But that’s not good enough. Koch / Reason libertarianism wants all billionaires — not just a lucky few — to rapidly increase their wealth. And that will not happen until we do what billionaires have long advocated: open our borders. #BillionairesKnowBest

    1. They will be hoovering up entire neighborhoods full of upside down mortgages soon enough.

    2. “#BillionairesKnowBest” I always knew you were a secret Trump supporter.

    3. I’m not a good person, so I don’t believe anybody here. Obviously Omar and Sanders have a narrative that all facts must fit into or be discarded. Their opinions are less than worthless. I don’t automatically believe the workers who were fired. Anybody who has worked in almost any sized organization knows there are always lousy employees who become malcontents when they are skipped over for promotion and look for excuses to lash out. Such employees are exactly the type that would make these claims, and they’re easy to fire because, simply, they suck at their jobs. But of course I can’t be sure this is case here, so I also don’t believe Amazon. I don’t believe the Reason writer for the same Reason I don’t believe Sanders: the agenda thing. In case somebody’s reading this, I don’t believe you either. I can’t even believe I wrote all this shit.

  2. The women claim that workers face crowded working conditions with insufficient social distancing practices, that the company is shipping “non-essential goods” despite claiming to have suspended that during the pandemic, that there are insufficient policies on properly disinfecting packaging Oh, well. Pretty soon exclusively-robotic operations will solve all these problems.

    1. I don’t trust them as they are already distorting at least one fact in their claim. Amazon never said they were suspending shipment of ‘non-essential’ goods, just that those goods might be delayed as they prioritized processing and shipping orders for essential goods first.

      I smell an agenda.

      1. If it’s not wages it’s working conditions. People always have something to bitch about. This is exactly like the complaints certain workers have leveled against Tesla. If you don’t like it just take a walk and get a job stocking a shelf at Walmart. Good compensation comes with tradeoffs.

        1. Everything is so terrible and unfair.

  3. “The women claim that …. the company is shipping “non-essential goods” despite claiming to have suspended that during the pandemic…” Actually, what Amazon tells ME it that non-essential goods will experience delays in shipping. This has been my experience: a couple of items I purchased, which normally would have taken about three days to get to me, took more like ten and twelve days. A minor inconvenience, by the way.

    1. They would not be employed if that was true. I’m sure Amazon would gladly continue taking my money while telling me I can’t order anything, but I (plus everyone else) would have other ideas.

      1. Well, since Amazon doesn’t bill my credit card until the item is shipped, they aren’t making any money by delaying shipping. From what I can tell, (though based on only a few orders) they are still using the same shipping methods and speeds, just scheduling them differently.

        1. I was referring to the idea of not shipping anything non-essential while also charging a Prime subscription fee.

          1. and I’ve also ordered non-essential items during this pandemic. I don’t mind waiting a bit longer either, but if they stopped shipping almost everything they’d have a lot of unhappy Prime customers. The video and music streaming is nice, but not the main reason I get it.

            1. Sorry. I shouldn’t try to read until I have had my coffee.

    2. I just started ordering from walmart.com. Often it’s cheaper than Amazon and I get stuff in 5-7 days with free shipping instead of 2 weeks+.

    3. Contrary to the lefttards, there’s no such thing as “non-essential” goods. A complete shutoff of “non-essential” goods would halt the economy and we would be thrown into the dark ages. Do these shits think stuff just magically appears out of thin air?

      Nurses are essential. Nurses need shoes. So shoes are essential. Shoes need laces or velcro. So laces and velcro are essential. Those shoes get made in factories, so all the factory equipment is essential, from the bearings on the conveyer belts to the lighting on the ceiling. Oh, and you have to clean the damned factor floor, so cleaning supplies are essential. It goes on and on and on.

      The leftist idea that a dumbass politicans can decide what is or is not essential is bullshit. The Soviet Union tried that and they ended up being seventy years behind the rest of the world economically when they finally ended that failed experiment. During that seventy years they had shortages in everything and lines to get the simplest of goods were commonplace.

      1. I, Pencil.

  4. Dear Representative, speaking of national disgrace….

  5. This is a woman who lied about marrying her brother and you expect honesty about this?

  6. when I first read the headline I didn’t see the “No” and I thought, huh! Something we actually agree on. But then I read the article and it made a lot more sense. She seems to have the worst take on everything.

  7. “user-experience designers” Say What? Sounds like a made up job in the range of the made up “studies” degrees colleges use to suck up tax dollars disguised as loans.

    1. I think it means that they work in web development, i.e. making sure that the site is easy to navigate.

    2. In theory, it’s a good thing that developed in web design because nobody gives a shit about the people who are actually using the website. (from my experience as an actual web designer) In reality, every graphic/web designer wants to become one because they can make six figures (because good user experience leads to more sales, basically) so during a pandemic, probably a lot of subpar UX designers are turning into Tom Smykowski from Office Space….

      “I already told you: I deal with the god damn customers so the engineers don’t have to. I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people. Can’t you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?”

      1. In fairness it IS hard to deal with some engineers.

        We had a special training in investments on how to handle engineers.

        1. Just assume we’re right, and you’ll find us easy to deal with.

          1. That’s GOOD!
            (and true)

  8. After all, if Amazon doesn’t independently address these problems, then politicians will likely do it for them. “Nice business you got here, be a shame if anything was to happen to it”. Does that really make it an “independent” decision? A “nudge” maybe? A “chilling effect”, perhaps? An offer you can’t refuse?

    1. Ahhhh-shaddap! Your brother wore construction boots at your wedding.

      1. Omar that is.

  9. It’s bad enough when elected officials try to declare what is essential and what is not. But at least they were elected, so the people theoretically have some say in who is making that decision and a recourse if they disagree. What gives these two Karens the idea that they get to decide for me what is essential and what is not?

    1. “What gives these two Karens the idea that they get to decide for me what is essential and what is not?”

      Four years at a college getting a degree in socialist indoctrination while lounging around a ‘campus’ that beats out a five start resort for amenities, then whining about the debt load they were “forced” to take on to get a degree that is only good in an Amazon warehouse.

  10. Isn’t Omar under federal investigation?

    1. So maybe she’s just wagging the do…what would the Muslim version be since they hate dogs?

      1. A sword.

  11. Amazon did the right thing.

  12. I’m all for Progressives criticizing Amazon and Jeff Bezos. Maybe if enough of them get on his case, he’ll stop shilling for them through the Washington Post.

  13. Omar like her squad is crazy as fuck. Literally the worst people you can elect are democrats who are just proggie left wingers with no sense of proportion and no ability to do anything except bitch and whine all day.

  14. “This should be a national scandal,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.) tweeted.

    If Amazon doesn’t measure up to her standards, maybe she should return to the sanitary and hygienic practices of her native shithole country.

  15. I think what they’re really pissed about is that Amazon fired someone for trying to Unionize their warehouse. Weirdly, Amazon seems to pay warehouse people a lot more than your average warehouse already. Go figure.

    1. Yeah. It’s almost like the unions were more about collecting dues to donate to democrats than representing workers. I wonder.

  16. Perhaps Omar would prefer that Amazon stop delivering to her district?

  17. If the politicians beat up on Amazon hard enough and long enough, Amazon will give in by increasing their campaign contributions. It’s called a political shakedown.

  18. Just may be, perhaps, could be that Bezos will start to understand why taking a leftist-big gov position is detrimental to his health and the health of the economy.

    Who knows he may become a Libertarian, or gasp, a Republican.

  19. Cpnsider the source of this attack:
    thrice married, incestuous, two husbands at once, immigration fraudster.. that’s enough for me to discount ANYTHING she would say.

  20. When did Amazon say they would not ship non-essential products? Every time I visit the site I see a prompt saying items will be prioritized based on need. Ordered a book earlier this week. Instead on next day it will arrive by May 1.

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    1. Is this about Amazon jobs?

  22. Izzis Omar Allahu Akbar, the religious nut? How is that left or right wing?

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