9 Amazon Workers Describe the Daily Risks They Face in the Pandemic

I just found out five minutes ago that someone tested positive at our building. They have not closed the building, they have not done anything. Before this, I wasn’t getting much information about the virus at work. My boss didn’t know anything, because Amazon wasn’t communicating with him. The only way I was finding out things was going online and looking at NPR, looking at your website. Today, after someone already contracted the virus, was the first time I’ve seen wipes and gloves available.

I’m trying to do my part in staying 6 feet away from people, but you still have customers coming out to the van, expecting us to give them their packages in hand. I have four grandkids, two kids, a wife, and two dogs. It’s very scary, because I may not be in the most vulnerable age range, but it’s still possible I could get sick. I just wish Amazon would step up to the plate and protect us.

Whole Foods delivery driver, late fifties, New York City area

I’m a writer, and I started writing about the automotive industry about a decade ago. A few years back, I became fascinated with the potential for local delivery to help reduce carbon emissions. In 2018, I started doing delivery work for Roadie first, and then Whole Foods, to learn more about the industry from the inside. When one of my primary writing gigs evaporated, I was like Oh my god, I gotta pay the bills. Delivering for Whole Foods pays the bills, but only if you do it right.

The appreciation I feel from customers has an effect on me. When people thank you profusely for what you’re doing, even though it’s a menial task, it makes you feel good about it. Feeding people is really important. But the gig has always had its ups and downs. When I first started doing it primarily as research, my wife said, “Look, if you do it when you’re in town, you better pull your baseball hat down over your eyes so nobody knows who you are.” It’s like dad’s delivering groceries—that’s embarrassing. That kind of sucks.

Now the coronavirus looms over me. Every time now when I wake up, I’m scared. It’s just like, Oh man, I gotta go into one of those contagion zones. I made my own mask and hand sanitizer. This first mask is duct taped together and it’s made from an old Nike golf shirt. I try to be really cautious about wiping down the steering wheel, wiping down the gearshift, any place I could touch—I wipe it down.

After this interview was conducted, the driver reported that Whole Foods has instituted more protections for workers, including social distancing measures, temperature screenings, and providing gloves.

Warehouse worker, early sixties, California

I’ve been with Amazon 11 months now. I went there with the idea that it was just going to be a temporary job until I could find something that was better suited for me. When I first started there, it was a great job, because it’s only part-time, it’s fairly flexible, and it gave me the opportunity to look for other things. I have been going to work through the pandemic, but I am starting to contemplate staying home because of some of the issues at Amazon.

Amazon, at least our facility, hasn’t enforced the policies as much as they could have. One problem we’re encountering is that once we’re on the floor and we’re doing our work, they don’t mandate social distancing. People aren’t staying 6 feet away. Instead of going around me, workers cut right in front of me, they bump into me. I’ve asked, please, 6 feet away, but they just ignore me and keep on going. Every time I’ve gone to management, their response is, “There’s nothing we can do about it, if there’s a problem you can just stay home.”

My feeling is they want to do the right thing, but they don’t know how to enforce it, so it’s not really happening. We have no hand sanitizers. We have no wipes. They’re not providing face masks.

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