In a blog post published Thursday night, October 1st, the company said it conducted an analysis of its 1,372,000 frontline employees and found 19,816 positive tests between March 1st and September 19th. Frontline employees includes warehouse staff and cashiers at the Amazon-owned grocery store chain, Whole Foods. Per The Washington Post, the number does not include the Amazon delivery drivers, who tend to be contracted workers.
Amazon compared its case numbers to those of the United States as a whole, using data from John Hopkins, and stated that its positive infection rate was significantly lower than the rate of infection in the U.S. Had it been the same as the general population, the company estimated their case totals would’ve been about 34,000.
At the start of the pandemic, Amazon faced significant criticism after whistleblowers raised concerns about warehouse worker safety. In April, two warehouse employees, Chris Smalls in New York City and Bashir Mohamed in Minnesota, were fired after trying to organize workers to demand better protections; Amazon said both were fired for not following social distancing guidelines. In protest, Tim Bray, a Vice President and top engineer at Amazon Web Services, quit his job, citing Amazon’s “chickenshit” decision to fire those raising concerns and trying to organize.
Over the past few months, Amazon said it has ramped up its testing apparatus and is on track to conduct 50,000 tests a day at 650 sites by November. The company said it’s also overhauled its health and safety protocols, distributing over 100 million face masks, implementing temperature checks and enhancing cleaning procedures at its facilities.
Still, many remain critical of the company, including the United Food and Commercial Workers International union, whose president, Marc Perrone, called the nearly 20,000 positive cases “the most damning evidence we have seen that corporate America has completely failed to protect our country’s frontline workers in this pandemic.”
Perrone’s statement continued: “[Amazon CEO] Jeff Bezos has repeatedly demonstrated that profits will always come before the safety of the company’s employees in Amazon warehouses and Whole Foods grocery stores. For years, Amazon has waged a ruthless campaign to silence any workers who speak out about safety failures or try to exercise their democratic right to unionize and stand up for the fair treatment they deserve. As the largest union for America’s retail and food workers, UFCW is calling for immediate action by federal regulators and a full Congressional investigation. This titanic safety failure demands the highest level of scrutiny. The lives of America’s essential workers are on the line and we will not rest until Amazon and Jeff Bezos are held accountable.”
In August, Bezos’ net worth passed the unprecedented $200 billion mark. The even greater tilt towards online shopping spurred by the pandemic played a significant role in this rise, with Forbes pointing out that Bezos’ net worth was estimated to be about $115 billion at the start of 2020.