Amazon has been the main talk since the commencement of lockdown in US states amid the Coronavirus pandemic and while the country is already easing off the lockdown measures, there are still important things put in place to ensure the safety of everyone in the country and that is the case with Amazon itself which claimed it had practiced everything necessary to ensure the safety ofit’s employees.
Meanwhile there is news about workers still being skeptical about returning to work due to the fear of still contracting the virus as one Courtenay Brown would put that she’s terrified to put grocery orders for online shoppers. “For me right now in the warehouse, its chaos, it’s terrifying” Brown said.
The reason for this is because she and others in the company feels Amazon isn’t transparent enough about reported cases and even death of some employees due to the contracting the virus. While the company tries in it’s power to keep it’s workers updated about new cases in its facilities, there isn’t a national or statewide statistics on the numbers of affected workers as well as their department making the handling of the matter by the e-commerce giant somehow disturbing.
According to Brown, she said that the information were for employees like her to compile as the company doesn’t do well to disseminate the accurate numbers or at least the statistics aren’t well fed to the workers not to talk of state bodies put in place by government to ensure the accuracy of the reported cases in the country and with that, more employees are being put into the risk of contracting the virus eventually if such continues at least that’s it from Brown’s point of view.
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Meanwhile, it’s not only employees of the company who have been asking for these numbers as 13 state attorney general called on the company last month to disclose a state by state breakdown of coronavirus infections and deaths in it’s workforce.
Another request came from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli who invests in Amazon through the state’s pension fund criticized the company’s decision as saying it’s “leaving it’s employees and investors in the dark about the effectiveness of it’s COVID-19 response”. The United Food and Commercial Workers union which often criticize the company also excoriated it for not releasing those numbers.
The reasons behind this refusal isn’t known by anyone and the best we can do is just guess or maybe not but this is becoming a serious issue to deal with within the company as unions and activist groups are already standing behind employees up against the company’s leadership.
With that, Amazon is already sowing a seed of distrust among it’s workforce which isn’t unionized with the country and many of it’s employees are now protesting against the company’s health and safety responses to the virus outbreak and criticizing it’s harsh decisions on it’s workers.
If you remember, the company fired a number of it’s employees in recent times all based on them voicing their dissatisfaction on how the company is handling health issues as well as it’s refusal to close down offices where cases were reported. With this new development, more employees are now fearful to come to work and that is surely slowing down the ability of the company to successfully run it’s business to millions of it’s customers nationwide while the lack of transparent information may have even help the wider spread of the virus within the company.
Aside Amazon, there are a number of companies too who are in similar boat such as Walmart, Target, InstaCart and CVS who didn’t make their numbers known nationwide either. According to a post from The New York Times last week which wrote about Smithfield Foods, a meat producer also refusing to disclose it’s numbers.
What’s the reason behind this hiding and seeking? They cited privacy reasons and others said these numbers could be easily misinterpreted. Meanwhile elected officials have called for the release of these statistics. Meanwhile, Kroger, Domino’s, Walgreens, McDonald’s, Costco, Dollar General and Dollar Tree didn’t respond to requests for comment from CNET about whether they release these statistics. But the fact that these big commerce companies refusing to disclose their numbers isn’t making any sense and with that, it’s causing serious issues within the company’s spectrum at large.
Amazon was communicating with it’s employees
Sure it was communicating information to it’s employees about the situation of things and development of new cases in the company as the company’s spokesperson Lisa Levandowski said that warehouse rates of infection “vary almost entirely based on the communities of which our associates live” and added further that the rates are “at or below” the community spread in nearly all it’s facilities.
Then a spokesperson from Walmart added that the company’s rates of infection are also generally below community rates. With that said, one can basically argue that these two big companies are trying to maintain a positive vibe among it’s workforce.
“We see that in our quarantine rates as well,” Amazon’s Levandowski said. “Quarantine rates are a critical part to understanding what’s happening in the workplace — it shows that our hard work around social distancing is paying off.
“Unlike others who hide behind HIPAA, anytime there is a confirmed diagnosis we alert every person at the site,” she continued, referencing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal health information privacy law. “This alert to employees is a direct text message noting when the person with the confirmed diagnosis was last in the building.”
Amazon’s head of global operations Dave Clark did an interview with 60 Minutes last month where he stated the reasons why the company is refusing to release its national statistics. He further on said the total number of workers infections that ” its not particularly useful number” and that the statistic needs to factor in community spreads and the number of employees in a given facility. Amazon said the number of recoveries with workers back on the job after getting sick would also have to be considered in order having the raw totals being misunderstood.
But while still being asked why the company still refuses to show it’s numbers despite the adjustments included, Amazon said it would be incredibly difficult to make an accurate summary of all the factors and caveats in an easily digestible text message to it’s employees or website for the general public. But the company also added that it will release the numbers if it’s legally obligated to do so but it would be inappropriate to share that otherwise.
Meanwhile a workplace health and safety expert in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations Ashley Conway believes Amazon is doing it wrongly stating information about work hazard needs to be easily accessible by anyone affected by it which includes the workers and the communities where they live.
“The assumption is that people can’t take tough information. So it’s kind of like this worst paternalistic attitude that people can’t handle it,” said Conway, the former director of the Disease Surveillance and Response division for the health department in Calvert County, Maryland.
And since the company had refused to let out it’s official numbers stating reasons, employees have to do this by themselves by putting together the text messages which the company had sent to them and the number is said to have been well over 1000 cases nationwide and nine deaths. Amazon is the second-largest private employer of labor in the United States with over 500,000 workers.
A separate effort by United for Respect, a nonprofit founded by UFCW, reported 805 coronavirus cases and 22 deaths among Walmart employees, New York magazine said last week. Walmart, the largest private employer in the US, has over 1.5 million employees in the country.
Why is the trend of concealing the numbers rampart
As mentioned earlier in this story, it’s not only Amazon that is disclosing it’s COVID-19 numbers from reporters and government officials. And this trend is also happening in other big companies such as Target and CVS which both cited privacy reasons for not doing so. Meanwhile a Target’s spokesperson said that “we’re providing information that any health department requests of us”.
Walmart’s US workers, the company spokesman said, “are not immune to the impact of COVID-19,” acknowledging that employees have been diagnosed with the disease or had suspected cases. “Sadly, we have also had associates pass away, and we feel their loss deeply,” he added.
The privacy concerns mentioned here based on statements gotten from spokespersons from these organizations are probably meant to keep the identity of the people who had the cases from the public eyes or maybe just for business reasons but either way, that could just be the case.
Meanwhile Amazon on it’s own had provided some 100 million masks with 48 million ounces of hand sanitizer and 34 million gloves to it’s workers as well as some 2,000 hand-washing stations in it’s facilities in an effort to keep workers well sanitized as well as keep the office free of infection. As part of its $4 billion effort to combat the virus, Amazon is developing its own coronavirus testing capabilities.
Meanwhile Jordan Flowers who is an employee at an Amazon’s warehouse believes the reason for the conceal is that the company is just protecting it’s business as well as to ensure new hires will come work at it’s facilities. “It’s blood money all over them not disclosing their nationwide cases,” he said. “They are afraid to tell the world the truth cause customers would stop ordering and business will go down, and Amazon will do whatever it takes to keep its business operational during a pandemic like COVID-19.”