Amazon fires worker who organized walkout over coronavirus safety concerns, De Blasio calls for investigation

Kimberly Dole
March 31, 2020 - 3:00 pm
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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- Amazon has terminated a Staten Island warehouse employee after he led a walkout protesting the company's response to worker safety amid the coronavirus pandemic, and now Mayor Bill de Blasio has directed the city's Commission on Human Rights to investigate the case. 

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Chris Smalls, a management assistant at the facility, helped organize a demonstration on Monday, calling on Amazon to close the facility for two weeks for deep cleaning after at least one employee tested positive for the virus.

"Mr. Smalls was found to have had close contact with a diagnosed associate with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and was asked to remain home with pay for 14 days, which is a measure we're taking at sites around the world," said Amazon spokesperson Kristen Kish. "Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, putting the teams at risk."

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"In this midst of a pandemic, Chris Smalls & his colleagues bravely protested the lack of precautions that @amazon employed to protect them from #COVID19. Then he was fired. I'm considering all legal options & calling on the NLRB to investigate," Attorney General Letitia James tweeted.

"Amazon, this is disgraceful. I'm considering all legal options & calling on the NLRB to investigate," James added.

New York Attorney General Tish James called the firing "disgraceful," and at a briefing Tuesday, de Blasio said the city will investigate. 

Smalls called Amazon's claim "ridiculous" during an interview with Bloomberg.

"Taking action cost me my job," said Smalls. "Because I tried to stand up for something that's right, the company decided to retaliate against me."