Amazon staff take off work to raise safety concerns in pandemic: coalition

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FILE PHOTO: A worker in a face mask walks by trucks parked at an Amazon facility as the global coronavirus outbreak continued in Bethpage on Long Island in New York, U.S., March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

(Reuters) – A U.S. labor and activist coalition said employees of Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) would take off work starting Tuesday to draw attention to what it says are unsafe conditions at warehouses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The action, involving more than 350 of Amazon’s staff from 40 facilities according to the coalition, comes as the world’s largest online retailer has faced several worker protests and demands by unions for it to close warehouses down.

Reuters was unable to verify the numbers shared by the coalition, which is known as Athena. Amazon did not immediately comment. Cases of the virus have been reported among staff from more than 50 of Amazon’s U.S. warehouses, according to the New York Times.

In a video that Athena posted on Twitter, worker Phillip Anthony Ruiz said, “I am not going in today because Amazon is putting our lives at risk.”

Facility closures would hinder Amazon’s ability to deliver essential goods during the pandemic, with the vast majority of the U.S. population under government stay-at-home orders. The company has focused on preventive health measures to keep work sites open: increasing sanitation, mandating social distancing, giving employees face masks and taking their temperatures.

Amazon has said it has more than 590,000 employees in the United States. It has 519 facilities in its U.S. distribution infrastructure, according to logistics consultancy MWPVL International Inc.

Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco

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