Amazon has fired two workers who recently criticized the company over its warehouse conditions during the current coronavirus pandemic.
As the Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, reports, employees Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were both fired on Friday. The two UX designers were members of the Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group and had “publicly denounced” via Twitter the “lack of safe and sanitary working conditions” warehouse workers were being subjected to. Cuningham was the first to tweet criticism, which was then retweeted by Costa. Both offered to match donations up to $500 in order to help warehouse workers who have “struggle[d] to get consistent, sufficient protections and procedures from our employer.”
In a statement, Amazon spokesperson Drew Herdener said the workers had been fired for “repeatedly violating internal policies.” Stating, “We support every employee’s right to criticize their employer’s working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies.”
Amazon’s external communications policy, the Post reports, stops employees from commenting publicly on its business without approval from executives. Herdener has stated previously that this policy does not allow employees to “publicly disparage or misrepresent the company.” Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to the New York Times a third employee, Chris Hayes, also had his employment cut short by Amazon after he criticized its treatment of warehouse workers. On Friday, Hayes invited co-workers to a virtual discussion with warehouse workers. He’d already handed in his resignation and was planning to leave his job on April 17, but a few hours after the invitation was sent out, a human resources representative told him he would no longer be allowed to work.
This is not the only instance where Amazon has appeared to fire workers over criticism of the company’s handling of the coronavirus. Chris Smalls, an assistant manager at the JFK8 Amazon Fulfillment Center, was fired for “violating quarantine” and having close contact with someone who had coronavirus symptoms. Smalls had previously organized a walkout to demand reasonable protections. An internal report suggested Amazon had intended to smear Smalls by making him “the face of the entire union/organizing movement” and characterized him as “not smart, or articulate.”
More recently, Amazon has started handing out face masks and performing temperature test on workers. The company is also hiring 75,000 more warehouse staff to cope with demand and placed new grocery customers on a wait list this week as it stuggles to keep delivery slots open.