Amazon fires warehouse worker who led Staten Island warehouse walkout

Amazon has terminated an employee based in the company's Staten Island, New York, warehouse after he participated in a worker walkout protesting the company's response to the novel coronavirus. CNN's Christine Romans reports the employee, Christian Smalls, was supposed to be under quarantine.

Posted: Apr 1, 2020 12:11 AM
Updated: Apr 1, 2020 12:11 AM

Amazon has terminated an employee based in the company's Staten Island, New York, warehouse after he participated in a worker walkout protesting the company's response to the novel coronavirus.

Amazon confirmed the firing Monday night, telling CNN Business in a statement that the employee, Christian Smalls, was supposed to be under quarantine.

"Mr. Smalls was found to have had close contact with a diagnosed associate with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and was asked to remain home with pay for 14 days, which is a measure we're taking at sites around the world," said Amazon spokesperson Kristen Kish. "Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, putting the teams at risk."

The firing follows the protest partly organized by Smalls, who had called on Amazon to shut down the Staten Island facility for deep cleaning after multiple cases of the coronavirus emerged there. In an interview on Sunday, Smalls told CNN he had spent the past week trying to persuade senior warehouse officials to close the building and sterilize it, but to no avail.

New York is grappling with the worsening coronavirus outbreak. The state has seen more than 66,000 people sickened by the virus, and more than 1,000 deaths.

Monday's protest saw more than a dozen people walk off the job at around lunchtime, according to Amazon and a livestream of the event viewed by CNN.

In a phone interview Monday night after his firing, Smalls said he is being singled out for punishment and that his firing reflects a culture of apathy at Amazon.

"Everybody's been warning me that [this] might happen, so I kinda expected it," Smalls said. "But for them to do it this way, and for the reasoning behind it, that tells you right there that they, number one, don't care about people, and number two, it's just a target, a straight up target."

Smalls said he next intends to visit City Hall to persuade local government officials to intervene.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said late Monday evening that "it is disgraceful that Amazon would terminate an employee who bravely stood up to protect himself and his colleagues."

"At the height of a global pandemic, Chris Smalls and his colleagues publicly protested the lack of precautions that Amazon was taking to protect them from COVID-19," she said. "Today, Chris Smalls was fired. In New York, the right to organize is codified into law, and any retaliatory action by management related thereto is strictly prohibited."

James also called for an investigation by the National Labor Relations Board. On Tuesday, Smalls told CNN that he intends to file a complaint with the NLRB.

"Legal action will be taken in due time," Smalls said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 728811

Reported Deaths: 13405
CountyCasesDeaths
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1082815

Reported Deaths: 19428
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1258081400
Cuyahoga1119722115
Hamilton799721205
Montgomery514061014
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Butler38338584
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Clermont19761238
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Fairfield16176199
Trumbull16032468
Medina15268264
Greene15063244
Clark13983299
Wood13080189
Portage12839203
Allen11639232
Richland11349199
Miami10670217
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Columbiana8778229
Pickaway8564121
Marion8523135
Tuscarawas8473244
Erie7888154
Hancock6914127
Ross6846155
Ashtabula6805170
Geauga6686148
Scioto6406101
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Lawrence5549102
Jefferson5525151
Huron5430119
Darke5355123
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Seneca5282121
Athens519158
Washington5155109
Auglaize490784
Mercer480385
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Knox4486110
Madison435661
Putnam4278100
Fulton422469
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Crawford3975107
Brown394157
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Preble379598
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Williams339275
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Henry268666
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Gallia235349
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Hocking215362
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Paulding172640
Meigs144840
Noble133337
Monroe132042
Morgan108423
Harrison108137
Vinton83115
Unassigned02
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