Amazon fired three of its employees over the last few days who criticized the company’s handling of warehouse worker safety during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The company terminated the jobs of Bashir Mohamed, a warehouse worker at an Amazon facility in Minnesota, as well as corporate employees Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, last week. Mohamed told BuzzFeed News he believes he was fired for his activist role; Cunningham and Costa told the Washington Post they believe they were targeted for similar reasons.
In statements to Recode, Amazon said it supports employees’ right to criticize their employer but that Mohamed was fired “as a result of progressive disciplinary action for inappropriate language, behavior, and violating social distancing guidelines.” Cunningham and Costa’s employment was terminated for “repeatedly violating internal policies.”
The dismissals come less than two weeks after Amazon fired Christian Smalls, a warehouse worker who led a small walkout at the company’s Staten Island, New York, fulfillment center to demand better health precautions for facility workers. That prompted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to announce a plan to investigate why Amazon fired Smalls, and it sparked outrage among some Amazon white-collar employees after the company’s top lawyer referred to Smalls as “not smart, or articulate” in leaked notes from an executive meeting.
The firings once again highlight the growing tension between Amazon and both internal and external activists who believe the company has not done enough to keep the front-line workers in its warehouses and delivery network safe during this once-in-a-generation pandemic. Amazon has dubbed these employees “heroes” and was one of the first companies operating during the pandemic to raise pay for its workers, by $2 an hour. In the last 10 days, the company has started providing workers with personal protective equipment, and it has also implemented temperature checks for workers at the beginning of shifts. But some workers have argued that some of the measures came too late and that figuring out how to qualify for the extra paid time off if you’ve been affected by the virus is still an unacceptably confusing process.