ROMULUS, Mich. – Current and former employees at the Amazon fulfillment center in Romulus are once again sounding alarms, saying that the company has not done enough to keep workers safe from the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Earlier this week Michigan Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Dingell called for a federal OSHA investigation into conditions after employees claimed they couldn't properly be socially distant. Workspaces were described just three feet apart, half the recommended distance. Cleaning supplies and protective equipment are also allegedly limited. Employees also claim many are left without time for basic hygiene, hand washing.
Tlaib and Dingell had raised questions before about safety practices at Amazon facilities, which a company spokesperson said Friday, were answered and issues were fixed.
One of those employees was Mario Crippen, who left the facility in April out of fear he would get sick. Employees he still talks to say improvements have been made since he left the center but haven’t gone far enough.
“I'm hearing that they gave tubs and disinfecting wipes to employees to put up their stations,” Crippen said. “I'm hearing is it's not being cleaned frequently like frankly, like handrails or elevator buttons doorknobs those items are still not being cleaned as often as they should.”
Crippen also says because demand is so high for Amazon to make deliveries some employees are forced to choose between keeping their jobs or to continue working and expose themselves or others to the virus.
“Coming to the job because it's either not coming to work, miss out on a few bills and probably lose your house lose your car, can't feed your kids or come to work and, and be at risk for catching that virus. It's a scary, scary thing to go inside that building,” Crippen said.
Amazon is reportedly brought in $75.5 billion in the first quarter of 2020 and saw a jump in revenue in both its brick and mortar locations, mainly Whole Foods grocery stores, and in its cloud computing business. The commerce giant’s pandemic success, however, has been continually marred by claims from employees like Crippen.
In a set of statements a company spokesperson called those claims “simply not true.”
“Safety is our top priority and we are committed to ensuring a clean and safe workplace. We’ve implemented over 150 significant process changes—from enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures to new efforts like disinfectant spraying. We’ve also distributed personal protective gear like masks across our entire operations network,” Amazon spokesperson Timothy Carter said. The company also plans to spend millions of dollars retraining some workers to be
When it came to the OSHA investigation Carter said the company was “surprised” by the request from the congresswomen adding the safety measures they asked for in their investigation request had already been covered in previous communication and had been implemented by late April.
“We invite them to visit any one of our fulfillment centers so they can see firsthand rather than repeatedly asking the same questions,” Carter said. It was unclear whether the same invite would also be extended to OSHA investigators.