A coalition of four labor unions is claiming that Amazon put workers at risk by underreporting the number of COVID-19 cases in its facilities last year to the Department of Labor.
The Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) issued a report claiming that it reviewed data Amazon sent to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 2020 and found that it “systematically failed to record COVID-19 cases in its warehouses, recording only 27 work-related illnesses.”
The coalition then cited Amazon’s October 2020 report in which the company acknowledged that 19,816 front-line Amazon and Whole Foods Market employees tested positive or have been presumed positive for COVID-19.
“This means that Amazon claimed to OSHA that almost none of the tens of thousands of COVID-19 infections among its workers were work-related,” the SOC said.
The SOC argued that in doing so, the “nation’s second largest private employer, put workers’ lives at risk by depriving OSHA of information about COVID-19 cases in its facilities, undermining the agency’s ability to identify workplace hazards and to hold the company accountable for unsafe conditions.”
The coalition issued a letter to Assistant Labor Secretary Douglas Parker, requesting that Amazon be investigated for its “disturbing pattern of misleading or grossly incomplete information” regarding COVID cases in its warehouses.
However, Amazon told FOX Business that the SOC’s claims “are intentionally misleading to try and paint a false picture.”
“OSHA has acknowledged that assessing whether a COVID case was caused through exposure in the workplace vs. in the community is difficult,” Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said. “OSHA has provided employers with guidance about when to record cases as workplace related exposure and we have worked to follow this guidance throughout the pandemic.”
Amazon also argued that the company regularly communicated with employees and local health authorities.
“While we know we aren’t perfect, we’re working hard every day to listen to the experts and keep our teams and communities safe,” Nantel continued.
She noted that the company has incurred more than $15 billion for coronavirus-related protocols like contact tracing, on-site vaccine clinics and testing in addition to “hundreds of process changes and health measures.”