Amazon has come under fire after it had scripted its own news story about its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The script, which was run by 11 different news stations, touted the company's efforts to keep its workers safe. The news comes amid widespread reports that contradict the company's claims.
The Courier News Room pointed out the similarities, posting a video montage of nine different stations reading the script in near-unison. A spokesperson for Amazon defended the move, telling Forbes that the text isn't an unusual move for companies to make. In an email sent to newsrooms, the company claimed it was "giving viewers for the first time an inside look at its buildings to see how the company has transformed its operations in response to COVID-19." However, the outlet noted that the script surfaced as the company's shareholders had been pressuring the company over its safety protocols.
Several State Attorney Generals have joined in, repeatedly requesting the company hand over more concrete numbers regarding how many employees have been infected and died after contracting COVID-19. Amazon employees also joined with those from Walmart and Target to protest their employers' handling of the pandemic on May 1. Dubbed a "sick out," the protest was organized by former Amazon employee Christian Smalls, who called it "a matter of life and death."
Smalls was fired from an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, after he organized a walkout there back in March. Amazon had received additional backlash after they'd illegally dismissed Smalls for his activism. However, the company reportedly claimed it was because he failed to comply with its social-distancing guidelines.
Along with Smalls, user experience designer Emily Cunningham also said that she was fired following her criticism of Amazon's policies on employee safety and climate change. "Amazon is putting workers in an impossible situation where they have to choose between getting groceries and rent paid and potentially infecting themselves or others," she said. "Amazon is not giving out the number of cases, so workers don't know if it's 2,000 public cases, is it 200, is it 20? If Amazon has those numbers, it needs to say it."
Amazon's warehouses have remained open throughout the pandemic, although they only recently started selling non-essential items earlier in May. The company also lifted its limit on the number of items shoppers could purchase, which it had limited after panic-buying caused mass shortages of everything from eggs to hand sanitizer to toilet paper.