MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Rep. Ilhan Omar is calling for an investigation into Amazon over the internet giant’s firing of two Minnesota warehouse workers who had raised concerns about workplace safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minnesota Democrat sent a letter Wednesday to an official at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), asking for a comprehensive probe into Amazon’s firing of the two employees who worked at a warehouse in Shakopee.
“It is outrageous that during an unprecedented global health pandemic, an employer would choose to fire workers coming forward to blow the whistle on health and safety risks, rather than fix the conditions that are threatening their dedicated essential workforce and their vital supply chain,” Omar wrote.
According to the congresswoman’s letter, the two workers were part of a group of Shakopee facility employees that had filed a formal complaint with OSHA earlier this month, alleging that management didn’t take decisive action for their safety despite workers’ requests. The report was filed after a number of other Amazon workers across the country had tested positive for COVID-19.
The workers had also been involved in organizing efforts, Omar’s office said.
Amazon has responded to Omar’s claims:
“These accusations are simply unfounded. Nothing is more important than the safety of our teams. Since the early days of this situation, we have worked closely with health authorities to proactively respond, ensuring we continue to serve customers while taking care of our associates and teams. We have also implemented proactive measures at our facilities to protect employees including increased cleaning at all facilities, maintaining social distance in the FC, and adding distance between drivers and customers when making deliveries.
“We respect the rights of employees to protest and recognize their legal right to do so; however, these rights do not provide blanket immunity against bad actions, particularly those that endanger the health, well-being or safety of their colleagues. These individuals were terminated for violating internal policies.”
Late last month, Omar was one of several Democratic lawmakers who called on Amazon to be more transparent about how it’s protecting workers during the novel coronavirus outbreak. The lawmakers accused the company of being too vague in how it’s protecting front-line employees from the pathogen, which has led to more than 30,000 deaths in the U.S.
Meanwhile, Amazon says that, as of April 13, they have hired more than 100,000 workers across the country since the outbreak began, and they’re aiming to create another 75,000 jobs. Many of the new hires are in front-line jobs, such as packing and shipping. The company, which owns Whole Foods, has seen demand surge as many retail businesses are closed due to stay-at-home orders in place across the U.S.