Amazon workers staged multiple walkouts to protest unsafe conditions at Little Village warehouse
Two employees at DCH1, the warehouse at 2801 S. Western Ave., have tested positive for COVID-19.
Amazon employees held a pair of demonstrations outside the company’s Little Village distribution center Friday and Saturday, sparked by an automated text message from the company informing them that a second colleague tested positive for the coronavirus.
The workers, known as DCH1 Amazonians United, say the world’s largest online retailer put them at risk for catching the virus by making them work in unsafe and exploitative conditions at DCH1, the warehouse at 2801 S. Western Ave.
A Facebook Live video of Saturday’s protest shows vehicles honking their horns in support of the workers, who shouted slogans like “shut it down, clean it up,” and blocking delivery vans attempting to leave the warehouse.
“There’s folks coming in crying, being put in situations where they have to put themselves and their vulnerable family members at risk,” said Christian Zamarron, a 30-year-old Pilsen man who has worked at DCH1 for nearly three years.
He said Amazon offered employees unlimited unpaid time off through April.
“We can’t just keep staying at home, we have bills to pay, so it’s like we got to take action here,” Zamarron said.
On Sunday, Amazon began “temperature checks at select sites around the U.S. in an effort to ensure that employees and support staff are healthy when they arrive at work. Anyone registering a temperature over the CDC-recommended 100.4F will be asked to return home and only come back to work after they’ve gone three days without a fever. We are now temperature checking more than 100,000 employees per day. The complete rollout of temperature checks across our entire U.S. operations network is expected by early next week, at which point we will be testing hundreds of thousands of people daily,” said an Amazon spokesperson.
The group staged their first demonstration March 30 after allegedly learning a co-worker tested positive for COVID-19 over a week after the results came in and tried to present management with a petition for coronavirus protections. It was refused, Zamarron said.
The next day they sent it to DCH1 site leader Domonic Wilkerson. The petition includes shutting down the warehouse for two weeks — with pay — so the facility can be sanitized, and coverage of medical bills for employees and their families should they contract COVID-19 from work.
Wilkerson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Amazon said they“have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances.”
Zamarron brushed away those measures as “mostly PR stuff,” saying the fast-paced nature of the work makes it impossible for employees to always maintain a distance of six feet.
Asked if he was worried about potential retribution, Zamarron said no.
“I feel like my coworkers have my back, and if Amazon management comes at me we’d be ready to respond,” Zamarron said.