According to union organizers, Amazon has suspended at least 50 warehouse employees who refused to work their shifts following a trash compactor fire at one of its New York offices.
On Tuesday, the company suspended the employees, with their pay, a day after a fire at the Staten Island warehouse, which was voted to unionize.
According to Derrick Palmer, the vice president of the Amazon Labor Union, day-shift workers were paid as a result of the fire, which began late afternoon Monday. However, night-shift workers, who were just coming in for their shift, were advised to remain in a break area until staff informed about the situation.
Dozens of workers started to debate concerns about safety. Some were concerned that the air in the facility would be unsanitary to breathe because of the fire''s smoke. Eventually, roughly 100 workers organized a sit-down protest at the facility''s main office, demanding that they be sent home with paid.
Palmer said that they were saying we don''t feel safe to work, but we don''t feel safe to work.''
According to a prepared statement, Amazon''s all-night shift employees had been required to report to their shifts on Monday, after the New York Fire Department certified the building as safe.
Despite the large majority of employees reporting to their workstations, a small group refused to return to work without prior authorization, according to Flaningan. Some employees had also walked out, while others continued with the protest, according to the organizers.
The suspended employees were informed by email and phone that their security badges would be inactive during the course of the investigation, according to Palmer. The suspensions are in effect indefinitely as the company investigates. The number of employees involved has risen. Seth Goldstein, an attorney for the company, said the workers intend to file unfair labor practices lawsuit against Amazon with the National Labor Relations Board.
Amazon has filed over two dozen objections with the agency in order to take out the union''s April victory. Similarly, warehouse workers in a separate office near Albany, New York, will vote in their own union election next week.