Advocacy update

Amazon Workers' COVID-19 Lawsuit in New York Helps Protect Workers Across the U.S.

Date
July 16, 2020
Contact
Brooke Havlik
media@opensocietyfoundations.org
+1-646-402-9513

This week, Amazon informed workers for the first time at its JFK8 facility of a nationwide corporate policy that the company would not punish its warehouse workers for insufficient productivity or when taking necessary COVID-19 safety precautions, like handwashing and cleaning their workstations. Prior to this week’s announcement, Amazon only communicated the policy to managers and expressly instructed them not to post the changes publicly, leaving workers unaware of the changes.

The policy comes after Amazon workers and family members of workers at the JFK8 fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York filed a lawsuit in June against the company to force changes to the company’s on-the-job and leave policies, which they argue put them at serious risk of COVID-19 exposure. The JFK8 facility has been the site of multiple organized walkouts by staff over working conditions. In March, Amazon fired a worker at the facility in retaliation.

The company released the policy to employees at their JFK8 facility just one day before an emergency injunction hearing with the plaintiff’s counsel; Make the Road New York, Public Justice, Towards Justice, and the Terrell Marshall Law Group. Since the announcement addresses one of the central demands made by workers, they have withdrawn their motion for a preliminary injunction for the time being, and will continue their litigation to ensure Amazon is held accountable to public health standards.

Open Society Policy Center, an entity that is part of the Open Society network and shares the Justice Initiative's mission, is lead counsel for sixteen Members of Congress who filed an amicus brief in the case in June, arguing for stronger protections of Amazon’s JFK8 workers, their families, and the wider communities whose health depends on essential workers remaining safe and healthy. 

“Just last month, essential workers at Amazon’s JFK8 facility launched a historic lawsuit against one of the world’s wealthiest corporations to standup for their health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, their courageous legal action has immediately helped Amazon workers at the JFK8 fulfillment center, and we urge Amazon to do the right thing and make the same policy clear to workers nationwide, especially in states that currently face rapidly escalating coronavirus cases,” said Matthew Burnett of Open Society Justice Initiative. “We congratulate them on this momentous victory, and continue to support their fight to ensure Amazon is held accountable for safe workplaces where all workers can meaningfully take steps to protect themselves, their families, and communities.” 

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