back to article Amazon says it fired a guy for breaking pandemic rules. Same guy who organized a staff protest over a lack of coronavirus protection

On Monday, Amazon fired Chris Smalls, a worker at its Staten Island, New York, warehouse, who had organized a protest demanding more protection for workers amid the coronavirus outbreak. Smalls, in a statement, said, "Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our …

  1. Imhotep Silver badge

    One Sided Reporting

    And if he indeed was warned multiple times and came in to work when he should have stayed at home, potentially exposing coworkers to infection: he should have been fired.

    The reporting at ElReg that originates from San Francisco doesn't meet the standard set by its other reporters.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Troll

      "if he indeed was warned multiple times"

      Key word, if.

      "One sided reporting"

      So one sided, we put Amazon's reasoning in the headline and prominently at the start of the article. Good grief.

      C.

      1. holmegm Bronze badge

        Re: Troll

        The key word is "if" on both sides.

      2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Troll

        If your employer tells you not to come into work, for any reason, and you do, you are trespassing. That alone makes you subject to arrest for trespassing if the employer wants to be a hardass, let alone dismissal for insubordination. I'd terminate any of my employees who came in if they were told to stay home. Amazon has nothing to fear and it has nothing to do with what jerk the Trump administration has appointed in Washington.

        1. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Re: Troll

          ... and it has nothing to do with what jerk the Trump administration has appointed in Washington.

          I am totally sure US Representative Jerry Nadler is not part of the Trump Machine.

        2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

          Re: Troll

          "If your employer tells you not to come into work, for any reason, and you do, you are trespassing. That alone makes you subject to arrest for trespassing ... "

          Not in the UK.

          1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

            Re: Troll

            > Not in the UK.

            Also not in the rest of the civilized world.

          2. Mike the FlyingRat
            Boffin

            @Trigonoceps Re: Troll

            I'm sure that in the UK, as in the US it would be cause for dismissal.

            And that's what happened.

            What wasn't in the story... if he stayed at home, would he still get paid? My gut tells me that he is an hourly worker and not an exempt (salaried) employee.

            So they guy risked his and others safeties because he wants to earn a living.

            Still no excuse.

        3. tin 2

          Re: Troll

          And the fact that you use "terminate" as a term for a thing you do to another human being indicates all we need to know about your attitude.

          1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: Troll

            Ok, snowflake.

            1. tin 2

              Re: Troll

              and that just backs it up. Nicely done.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Troll

            "terminate"

            It's a very common term in the US from "termination of employment".

            "The ending of"

        4. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Troll

          "If your employer tells you not to come into work, for any reason, and you do, you are trespassing."

          If it's part of a "work action", it's protected and companies know that retaliating is in the same league as union busting. You would be correct if the employee came onto the workplace for some other reasons. If the business was a grocery, for instance, and the closest one to their home, they could certainly enter as a customer unless they were barred for other reasons such as stalking, making threats against other employees/managers, etc.

      3. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Troll

        I would've been one of the first to criticize this if it were truly one-sided. It does leave questions in my mind, but this is an ongoing story that I expect to see more info on as time moves forward...

        [not sucking up, seriously not, heh]

        Now, if we could just get CA's "governor in name only" NUISANCE (and other states) to stop it with shutting down the REST of our jobs, some of which just can't be done off site [or depend on on-site people to make the work possible], we'd be much better off. I wouldn't mind practicing social distancing on site, but I want the OPTION TO BE ON SITE. [now that the supply lines for medical supplies are going into place and extra hospital beds being made available, it's time to GO BACK TO WORK].

        That being said, our Amazon employee in question, who MAY have been fired for complaining too hard, should at least have been grateful for being able to SHOW UP for that job... unlike SO many others right now!

        And, of course, Amazon shouldn't be firing whistle-blowers. Additional investigation into this is welcome.

    2. redpawn Silver badge

      Re: One Sided Reporting

      According to an interview with him. He had a short conversation with the infected worker whom he supervised. He sounded the alarm that other workers had been exposed and procedures to prevent the spread of virus were inadequate. The coworkers whom he supervised worked in much closer contact with the infected worker stayed on the job and he was sent home for quarantine with far less exposure.

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: One Sided Reporting

      It's always possible that Amazon warned him, offered to pay him while he stayed home, etc. But does the following story really sound likely:

      The man works for a company, but he is unhappy with working conditions; he feels them to be unsafe and doesn't feel the workers are paid sufficiently for the current conditions. Please note that he was willing to accept the pay earlier when he joined the company, so his reservations are about the current conditions although he could already have been displeased. He protests about this to the company. In the next two days, he somehow manages to come into contact with someone who had a confirmed case of the disease in the workplace even though someone with a confirmed case or symptoms of the disease should definitely not have been working there and violate repeated requests, which he seems to do quickly. His employer suggests to him that he should not come in to work, thus not subjecting him to the conditions he felt were unsafe, but that they will still pay him the old rate that he had accepted back when he wasn't so worried about the conditions. He chooses to violate this order despite the fact that he isn't being paid any more for going in, by going in he subjects himself to the conditions he was protesting only two days previous, and he puts his job at risk.

      So tell me, if this is the situation, why is he choosing to violate the orders to stay home with pay? Has he demonstrated any incentive to want to be there? He's clearly not getting anything from Amazon for showing up, and he's already indicated he isn't happy with the situation there. The only reason I can think of is that he would want to continue organizing protests, but he could do that by contacting people outside of work. Also, how many warnings can he have gotten and violated? He protested on Monday and was allowed in then, so the warnings to definitely not come to work must have been between the protest and today. That's not a lot of days.

      I don't know whether what he or Amazon says is right, but I do know that Amazon's story doesn't make a ton of sense. When you combine that with this particular person having angered Amazon, there are some clear possibilities that are worth consideration. It may be that, if this ever gets investigated, we will find out that there was a miscommunication and he in fact was fired for breaking regulations. But we may find many other things. The situation seems well worth a look.

    4. James 47

      Re: One Sided Reporting

      The San Fran office is turning The Register into reddit.

      1. Trollslayer Silver badge

        Re: One Sided Reporting

        A one sided post.

      2. Kane Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: One Sided Reporting

        "The San Fran office is turning The Register into reddit."

        Nah, Reddit has more cats.

        And porn.

        So I've heard....

        1. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
          Holmes

          Re: One Sided Reporting

          Can confirm, following strict investigation.

          About the cats, I mean.

          1. LucreLout Silver badge

            Re: One Sided Reporting

            Can confirm, following strict investigation. About the cats, I mean.

            Can confirm following rigid investigation that the other thing is also true.

            1. Kane Silver badge
              Paris Hilton

              Re: One Sided Reporting

              "Can confirm following rigid investigation that the other thing is also true."

              Hurr Hurr Hurr!

          2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: One Sided Reporting

            I reckon Mrs Slocombe and her Pussy has made more appearances in The Register than Reddit

        2. low_resolution_foxxes Bronze badge

          Re: One Sided Reporting

          Don't worry sir, we are not concerned about the materials you may have polluted your mind with, on the darker side of the internet.

          Personally, I'm not a fan of Reddit, but it has its place among low IQ teenagers.

          As for the porn, who cares?

          1. Kane Silver badge
            WTF?

            Re: One Sided Reporting

            "Personally, I'm not a fan of Reddit, but it has its place among low IQ teenagers."

            Fine if you're not a fan, everyone has their tastes, but do you need to be a dick about it? I'm 42 years of age (can't confirm the low IQ bit, never dun a test, me)

            "As for the porn, who cares?"

            People who like porn, maybe??

        3. Persona Silver badge

          Re: One Sided Reporting

          Nah, Reddit has more cats.

          And porn.

          Really? I must be on the wrong Reddit subs ....... I like .... ermmm .... cats.

      3. HildyJ Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: One Sided Reporting

        But we have better headlines, ledes, and more beer emojis.

      4. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: One Sided Reporting

        if that were the case I wouldn't read it

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @James Re: One Sided Reporting

        I don't know if I would say that.

        I would say that the reporting from SFO comes out of a bit of a vacuum.

        But then again, many of the readers in the UK are just as far left and don't have a lot of experience in the real world.

        For those who haven't been around SFO... its always been a bit of a cesspool. But its gotten much worse over the past several years such that I tend to refuse to go to conferences out there unless I have to go and meet someone or give a talk.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One Sided Reporting

      @"potentially exposing coworkers to infection", given that so many people have already been infected then unless you only meet one person a year then the chances are that his coworkers are already infected.

      In fact it is quite possible that the coworkers infected him in the first place, given that the infected are themselves highly infectious before showing any symptoms . So many people pointing the finger when it is in reality pointless, everyone will get this infection sooner or later unless they die of something else first.

      breaking social distancing rules is the new "he's a nonce", stand by for more freespeech limitation for the sake of coranavirus

      1. Persona Silver badge

        Re: One Sided Reporting

        given that so many people have already been infected

        The numbers for the US show that currently 0.07% of the US population have been infected. Those numbers are probably wrong, but only by a factor of 2 or 3.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: One Sided Reporting

          correct. and those are only the KNOWN infections.

          It is quite possible that back in December and January, when travel between U.S. and China was still open and on-going, that a LARGE number of asymptomatic people (and a few symptomatic ones) traveled with Corona Virus from China to the USA and landed in California, exposing California to the virus back in December and January [when I quite likely would have been exposed].

          Back in December, the company I've been doing contract work for had a manufacturing related problem with a piece of equipment that's important to a new contract. To improve quality, they sent a few engineers to China [not sure where, I did not go] where they worked on getting the assembly-related issues and some design issues resolved. So far so good, right? After coming back, one guy was feeling kinda sick [I was in the office that day] with symptoms similar to Corona virus. I jokingly said that he'd make all of the rest of us sick, too, even though we were all 'generally careful' to not be exposed. But a week or two later, I had mild symptoms similar to what is describe for Corona Virus [and so did my kid, who still lives with me as an adult]. AFTER that was over, Trump issued the travel ban to China when they disclosed that the virus was spreading in Wuhan and they were trying to mitigate it. No blame, just fact.

          And so, did I get Corona Virus? I think I did. And so did anyone I came into contact with, mostly grocery stores and other people at the office. But there were NO KNOWN CASES of this virus being published in the news. And yet, it was probably HERE.

          And so, have people in California ALREADY been largely exposed to the Corona Virus? Not from me (or my co-worker) per se, but by the MANY THOUSANDS of people who were flying back/forth to China over that 2-3 month period from November 2019 through January 2020.

          Given THAT, what are the NEW projected numbers for fatal corona virus cases? They might be a whole lot LOWER... [and if there's a test for Corona Virus antibodies, and I "pass", I should be able to return to work on-site, right???]

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: One Sided Reporting

            "And so, did I get Corona Virus? I think I did. And so did anyone I came into contact with, mostly grocery stores and other people at the office. But there were NO KNOWN CASES of this virus being published in the news. And yet, it was probably HERE."

            You're probably right. And if it was Coronavirus, I'm sure you understand how many contacts you had and how that could have multiplied through the population. That one colleague of yours could potentially have been the vector for thousands of infections by now. Let's just hope it was a cold, eh? (on the other hand, it could be more reassuring to have had it with little to no symptoms and now be immune)

          2. Persona Silver badge

            Re: One Sided Reporting

            if there's a test for Corona Virus antibodies, and I "pass", I should be able to return to work on-site, right???

            Yes, and therein lies a problem. Test capacity will be inherently limited. People who want and need to return to work will struggle to get a test so many will assume that the "cold" they had earlier was the virus, and return to work claiming that they have had it. This then leads to a second peak of infections much worse than the first.

            In all probability people will need a certificate from a government approved test centre confirming that they have had the virus and are presumably short term immune so can be exempted from lockdown.

          3. Mike the FlyingRat
            Mushroom

            Re: One Sided Reporting

            Have you been tested?

            Unless you have and the antibodies have been found. You don't have it, or had it.

            I don't know where you live, but when you consider the number of elderly people who go to grocery stores, they would all be dead if the Coronavirus was present.

            And of the thousands of people going back and forth... how many tested positive? Now double that and that's how many people may have been infected.

            And its also important to point out the people who socialized with someone who may have gotten exposed in Europe or somewhere else.

            The key and to your point... yes the number of reported cases are under reported. Not everyone is getting tested. Not enough test kits and of course in the UK, unless you can't breathe and are forced to be hospitalized... you won't get tested. Welcome to socialized medicine.

            For you UK commentards... yes I've been in the UK, seen the NHS first hand. Also lived in the US and have seen the good and the bad of our system. Socialized medicine means rationing. Not good

      2. Mike the FlyingRat
        Mushroom

        @AC Re: One Sided Reporting

        Wow.

        Its logic like yours that allows pandemics to occur.

        Lets put this in perspective.

        I run a global team for a very large company.

        I had someone who was in China back in January when this was first starting to break out.

        Our company put them on home stay when they got back. I even had him stay an extra week out of our office. (Gave him more time with his kids)

        Where I live in the US, the local counties have ~400 - 500 cases. That's low when you consider Cook County and then the NYC area have thousands of cases.

        The reason that its low is that people practice social distancing. With your logic, there's a 50/50 chance that if I get hit w COVID-19, I could die. (Yeah, some people have health issues.)

        My guy in the UK... he may have it. We don't know because unless he can't breathe,.. he can't get tested. He too is at a higher risk of dying.

        So yeah, we take it seriously.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @AC One Sided Reporting

          @"Its logic like yours that allows pandemics to occur." I am not saying that containment should not be applied rather I am saying that it is all too late.

          They could have limited this infection but instead chose not to act, I would suggest because of the years of false pandemic alarms and since China (historical origin of many cross species infections) has become an increasing target for western businesses after the US housing bond crash.

          @"With your logic, there's a 50/50 chance that if I get hit w COVID-19 , I could die", nowhere do I make reference to mortality ratios however, as suggested by another poster here without comprehensive and continuous testing, the viral impact ratios may be at best wrong or bunkum since this has become a political issue. Boris in the UK effectively admitted that when it became clear that the UK was already infected that some would die but the majority would live, since then the UK Gov have changed their tune pandering to those that are terrified that they are in the <10% fraction that will die, whilst taking the opportunity to grab that which is not nailed down.

          As too taking it seriously, I do not doubt that you are scared but I am saying that if you are one of the ones who will die after infection then in terms of your genes you and yours are going to die regardless of the restrictions you want applied to everyone else. Sadly this is how evolution works but if you will not accept evolution then perhaps the US is indeed the best place for you to be.

          On a positive note the reported mortality rate so far suggest that your chances of suriving this wave of the infection are good and since you work for a "very large company" then the chances are you will have access to medical support should the worst happen.

    6. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: One Sided Reporting

      In union busting, the only way to get away with it is find solid enough grounds to fire someone that have nothing to do with union organizing. It's actually hard to do because the authorities tend to be suspicious of a 'coincidental firing' when union organizing is involved. About the only way to get rid of the union organizers and not have payout is layoff the entire group and make the group redundant. This sometimes does work if it can be shown this was planned for while and not as union busting effort. In short, it is best to let the unions attempt to organize the workers and act in good faith as it not that uncommon for the efforts to unionize to fail (ask VW about the TN workers rejecting the UAW).

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One Sided Reporting

      Inquiring minds want to KNOW! What is your favorite flavor boot polish?

      Seriously, if you all love the billionaire class so much, why don't you just sell yourself into indentured servitude to your favorite one... Why do you need to drag the rest of us down?

  2. tkioz

    Unions

    And people have the gall to say we don't 'need' Unions anymore...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unions

      Unions have their place, but the guy leading the charge is being paid to be somewhere else, and he isn't doing what he was being paid to do, then the guy doesn't deserve a job. A union plays no part in the decision.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unions

        An active union might have meant that the situation wouldn't have arisen, or that the worker in question wouldn't have been "leading the charge", so yes, unions play a part in the decision.

      2. Pier Reviewer

        Re: Unions

        “ Unions have their place, but the guy leading the charge is being paid to be somewhere else, and he isn't doing what he was being paid to do, then the guy doesn't deserve a job.”

        You’ve misunderstood Amazon’s reasoning. It’s cheaper for them to pay one guy to stay home and stop rocking the boat, than to implement effective measures to protect the rest of their employees. They basically wanted to pay him off ( as cheaply as possible). It has similarities to Weinstein. “Shut up and take the money”.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unions

        Problem is, we now know that 14 days after the relevant contact took him to the 25th.

        Which means at the time of the demo he was either outside the 14 days period or Amazon didn't apply it when they should. Either option is bad for Amazon.

      4. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: Unions

        Unions have their place

        Yup - the history books.

        but the guy leading the charge is being paid to be somewhere else, and he isn't doing what he was being paid to do, then the guy doesn't deserve a job

        The guy sounds like an absolute joy to employ. Quite aside from the union stooge stuff, the things that have been said would result in dismissal from any employer I've ever worked for. The alleged actions doubly so - there will be entry & exit logs, CCTV etc so Amazon will know that he's came on site while prohibited from doing so.

        A union plays no part in the decision.

        Much as I love Amazon, and indeed hold their shares, and I think Chris Smalls is behaving like an utter cretin, I have to say that I don't buy this for a second in this case. Its more likely to be expressly related to the activity, and its simply worth letting a toxic employee sue to be rid of them.

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Unions

      Unions might be a good idea if they worked as they are ideally needed, but unfortunately human nature takes over.

      So, I wouldn’t go anywhere near a Union.

      1. Filippo

        Re: Unions

        "Unions might be a good idea if they worked as they are ideally needed, but unfortunately human nature takes over."

        Uh, yeah, it's true that some unions are inefficient and/or corrupt, but if you replace "unions" with "capitalism" there, you get an equally valid reasoning.

        I mean, over-rewarding top execs for maximizing the short-term at the expense of tanking the company long-term is definitely a bug and not a feature, and so is the inability to handle externalities - and yet I don't think you'd say "I wouldn't go anywhere near a corporation".

        1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Unions

          "Unions might be a good idea if they worked as they are ideally needed, but unfortunately human nature takes over."

          Uh, yeah, it's true that some unions are inefficient and/or corrupt, but if you replace "unions" with "capitalism" there, you get an equally valid reasoning.

          This is one of those generic whinges that you can apply to pretty much anything you want:

          Condoms might be a good idea if they worked as they are ideally needed, but unfortunately human nature takes over.

          Elections might be a good idea if they worked as they are ideally needed, but unfortunately human nature takes over.

          Credit cards might be a good idea if they worked as they are ideally needed, but unfortunately human nature takes over.

          Lawnmowers might be a good idea if they worked as they are ideally needed, but unfortunately human nature takes over.

          Free beer might be a good idea if it worked as it is ideally needed, but unfortunately human nature takes over.

          etc.

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: Unions

            "Lawnmowers might be a good idea if they worked as they are ideally needed, but unfortunately human nature takes over."

            And so the movie Braindead came to be...

            1. TimMaher Bronze badge

              Re: Unions

              And “The Lawnmower Man”.

              Hang on...

              I have to answer the phone.

          2. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Unions

            Hey Smooth Newt.

            Your list of straw men might be a good idea if they even made any sense. None of those silly examples are even anywhere near relevant.

            1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Unions

              Hey Smooth Newt.

              Your list of straw men might be a good idea if they even made any sense. None of those silly examples are even anywhere near relevant.

              It was not intended as a serious post. You wrote that X is a great idea but it fails because human nature means that people do, or don't do, something. You don't say what you think that something is, but leave it to the reader to devise some rationale or other for themselves. i.e. X is would be great but is actually shit because, well, people.

              It doesn't really matter what X is, this criticism works for all X.

              Lawnmowers. A great idea, but *totally fucking ruined* by human behaviour. It is up to you to think of the reasons - that's not my job. My job is to make sweeping statements and leave you to think of the justification.

              Perhaps you could have thought that some people use them noisily each, every and all weekend causing major irritation to all their neighbours, or maybe that some people never use them at all and leave their gardens looking a total mess. Maybe its the devastation they wreak on smaller wildlife. Perhaps it is that people leave them all winter in freezing, leaky sheds so they don't work when they should. Take your pick, I'm not giving you a clue. Even better, think of your own reason.

            2. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Unions

              Except that most do make sense.

              Elections: The idea is that people vote for their desired representatives, but human nature leads to people voting without knowledge, people hijacking votes, people faking or suppressing votes, or institutions coming into play to maintain undemocratic governance though the elections exist. They are flawed, and you could attack them on this basis. It does not prove elections useless.

              Credit cards: They are a good idea for a payment method and a way of taking out short-term small loans, with a high interest rate to dissuade people using them when they won't be able to pay. But human nature may take over, leading to overspending and a spiral of debt, which can lead to far-too-broad credit reports which get leaked, economic crises, and increased poverty. The idea has flaws, and you could attack it on that basis. But it doesn't prove credit cards useless.

              Free beer: It would be nice for those who like beer, but when there are no limits on how much you can have, people end up drinking all the beer so there isn't any free beer for anyone who comes late, and now you have a bunch of drunk people who tend to be harder to manage. The idea has flaws, and you could attack it on that basis. But it doesn't prove it useless.

        2. baud Bronze badge

          Re: Unions

          > it's true that some unions are inefficient and/or corrupt

          Some? I've never seen an Union doing something useful.

          1. baud Bronze badge

            Re: Unions

            Well, I see a lot of downvotes, but not a lot of counter examples

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Unions

              - unemployment pay

              - union lawyer

              - salary negotiations

              And if you don't *know* any of these you obviously aren't a member in an union. Any member knows.

            2. Smooth Newt Silver badge
              Trollface

              Re: Unions

              Well, I see a lot of downvotes, but not a lot of counter examples

              Not hard to find. e.g.

              "Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that, on average, union workers receive larger wage increases than those of non-union workers and generally earn higher wages and have greater access to most of the common employer-sponsored benefits as well."1

              1 Long (2013), Differences between union and nonunion compensation, 2001–2011, Monthly Labor Review, Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2013/04/art2full.pdf

            3. baud Bronze badge

              Re: Unions

              Well, that's better. Great fucking job to all who answered. But I should have said I've never seen any case that's not in the past (as your good example reminded me); all I see (in my country) is union representatives doing fuck all and not getting fired or covering lazy arsehole because they're pals, slowing down our work, preventing WFH, blocking public transport, attacking managers and causing the closure of factories by raising such a shitstorm that any potential re-acquired ran away.

          2. Someone Else Silver badge

            @baud -- Re: Unions

            You do enjoy a 40-hr work week, don't you?

            Counterexample 1.

          3. Psmo Silver badge
            Go

            Re: Unions

            A standard working week?

            Paid holidays and sick days?

            Employer-supported healthcare and pension funds?

            The right to legal support in a dispute with your employer?

            Don't imagine that your employer wouldn't attack and or prevent all of the above if the legal framework in your country allows.

            Unfortunately employers not being abusive cocks is historically rare, and collective bargaining (from the Magna Carta onwards) has been the best tool for change.

          4. onemark03

            ... it's true that some unions are inefficient and/or corrupt

            @ baud:

            1. There are more crooks in the nation's boardrooms than there are at trades hall. And the former get away with more. (You can steal more with a briefcase, a laptop and a suit and a collar and tie.)

            2. In general, I would say than unions are an essential part of any functioning democracy.

            (Bring on the down-votes. [Sigh.])

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Unions

            Why would you, you obviously don't belong into one, so you don't have a clue.

            Mine organizes an lawyer for me if I need one and provides unemployment payment if I'm fired.

            Then it's union lawyer vs. company instead of me against the company.

            If you don't understand even that, I don't have enough crayons or time to explain it to you.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Unions

              That is because when you join the union, you work for the UNION, not the company.

      2. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Unions

        So, I wouldn’t go anywhere near a Union.

        They are grateful.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Unions

          So they should be. Judging by these responses I am 100% right.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Unions

            You just shot yourself in the foot and you are too stupid to understand what just happened.

            Nice.

      3. Someone Else Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Unions

        The Presidency of the United States is a good idea if it worked as they are ideally needed, but unfortunately human nature takes over.

        So, I would go anywhere near the President.

        Hmmmm. Maybe he's on to something...

      4. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: Unions

        Unions might be a good idea if they worked as they are ideally needed, but unfortunately human nature takes over.

        Yup, which is why all the union barons are multi millionaires. It's really quite immoral.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unions

        So when the company kicks your ass you just whine in the corner and take everything they bother to pour on you?

        Are you stupid or what?

        That's the exact reason we have unions in the first place: To stop that shit.

        1. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: Unions

          So when the company kicks your ass you just whine in the corner and take everything they bother to pour on you?

          Companies never kick my ass. As soon as an employer does anything I don't consider fair, reasonable, or above board, I walk. Just quit and go get a better job elsewhere. As my ex-finance mate says all the damn time, there's billions of companies out there and you won't have time to work for them all.

          Are you stupid or what?

          You'd have to be well on your way to a 170 IQ to make that possible, and your post shows no signs of it.

          That's the exact reason we have unions in the first place: To stop that shit.

          You have unions to blackmail your employer into paying what it can't afford or you all go on strike together. There's no noble purpose behind them. Again, that is why all the union barons are multimillionaires. And the hard of thinking just go along with it without ever realizing who it is that's really screwing them over....

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Unions

      unions like Teamsters more or less gave unions a bad name.

      A good union will provide the employer with skilled labor at a reasonable price, manage the payroll and benefits and vacations and absences and seasonal temporaries and training and labor relations and OSHA and all of that OTHER "HR Crap" that is SUCH a pain in the butt.

      A bad union strikes for ANY reason and asks for too much money from the employer to the point where people get fired or the company goes out of business (right Hostess? San Diego operations closed down and Hostess had to sell their business to 'Little Debbie', who has turned it around, but apparently NOT in California, where wages would have had to be too high).

      So yeah the 'need' for a union in general (rampant widespread exploitation and unsafe working conditions) has been generally prevented by other gummint regulations. But the 'good' aspects of a union would make them worth keeping.

      /me points out that if I were to build a factory someplace, I'd contact the local unions and look for good prices, or at least get an idea of what the prevailing wages are and weigh it against the value added by a union force vs the possible additional cost.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Unions

        Unions in the US sound like a very, very different beat to those in the UK and Europe.

  3. man_iii

    Re: Wow!

    Amazon likes to fire workers who protest in human robot-based warehouse working conditions! News at 11 !

    1. TVU Silver badge

      Re: Wow!

      "Amazon likes to fire workers who protest in human robot-based warehouse working conditions! News at 11 !"

      Indeed, and all it shows is that Bezos is just another repressive tycoon who cares not for human health or welfare.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Wow!

        "Indeed, and all it shows is that Bezos is just another repressive tycoon who cares not for human health or welfare."

        to assuage his own guilt, like so many rich liberal types in his kind of position, he'll gladly donate zillions of dollars to various "charitable causes" [but I would suggest that many such 'charities' are _REALLY_ "buying something" after all...]

        1. N2 Silver badge

          Re: Wow!

          donate zillions of dollars...

          Thats tax deductable which is far more important to him than the health of his workforce, lets face it if a worker sadly dies, another will soon take their place.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Wow!

      "We did not terminate Mr Smalls employment for organizing a 15-person protest," she said in an emailed statement. "We terminated his employment for putting the health and safety of others at risk and violations of his terms of his employment."

      Nice to see you edited out the occasional beeps from the BezosBot.

      In other news, Jeff Bezos just bought yet another $400m yacht, the 14th largest in the world.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: Wow!

        "Jeff Bezos just bought yet another $400m yacht, the 14th largest in the world."

        Did it belong to Geffen?

  4. LDS Silver badge

    not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers or shareholders

    Yes, they exist exactly for that reason, as a check to unlimited shareholder power over workers' rights....

    Otherwise, let's shutdown also the SEC and other institutions protecting shareholders' rights. After all nobody forces anybody to buy shares, if you don't trust a company don't buy them...

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers or shareholders

      Agreed. I read that and noted that nowhere, in the list of entities that concern Amazon, nowhere are "employees" mentioned.

      It is blindingly obvious that unions are not in the best interest of shareholders or associates. The interest of customers is not so clearly defined and seems to have been added to the list purely for numbering points.

      In any case, the only people who do indeed have interest in unions are the employees, because they have no other way to voice grievances with a chance of getting a positive result.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers or shareholders

        I also find funny companies that assert they need merging - even when it impacts prices, competition and jobs - because otherwise they are too small to compete in a given market "against the giants", but they also deny the same right to workers that obviously alone have no power to "compete". Or when companies want taxpayers help and subsidies in difficult times, while denying them to their workers.

        Unions are essential to make capitalism work without degenerating into an oligarchy. Capitalism is built on competition among different forces, and workers are one these forces. If you deny them the right to form a representative body, you just push them towards systems that imply strong government interference into the whole economy.

        There are bad unions of course, just like there are bad political parties and bad companies. The aim should be to make the system work.

        1. the Jim bloke Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers or shareholders

          one of the issues is when bad unions, political parties, and companies "merge" in order to compete against the giants - generally the law and human rights..

          Unions had a positive effect back in the "good old days", but then again, politicians, companies, and the media also all seemed far less toxic and predatory than appears to be the current normal.

          It is possible this could be the result of the loss of a "moral compass" thanks to organised religion thoroughly discrediting itself. Without an omniscient and incorruptible judge, Do what thou wilt -to maximise personal return- shall be the Whole of the Law

      2. Fred Dibnah Silver badge

        Re: not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers or shareholders

        "nowhere are "employees" mentioned."

        Is 'associate' their word for 'employee'?

        But otherwise, yes, agreed.

        1. Tomato Krill

          Re: not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers or shareholders

          Yes and I was going to post that same point - that the training video referenced in the article ends:

          "We are not anti-union, but we are not neutral either. We do not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers or shareholders or most importantly, our associates.""

          Where Associstes = horrific yank term for employee

          1. skeptical i
            Thumb Down

            Re: not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers or shareholders

            re: "associate" = employee, I think they mean "associate" in the Johnny Mobster sense ("These gentlemen? They are my 'associates', and they'd like a word with you") and protecting unseen hands. If anyone wants to mis-infer that Amazon gives more than a handful of Advil's worth of concern for the wellbeing of their employees, better for the company.

      3. John PM Chappell

        Re: not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers or shareholders

        The 'associates' in question *are* the employees. It's US Corporatese for "employee", designed to make everyone think "we're all in it together, you, management, we're all associates ... " and it's totally transparent to those same employees, of course.

  5. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Catch C19

    If you complain about a colleague being sacked for being ill, then you are sacked for being in contact with your colleague.

    Don't mourn, organise.

    1. deadlockvictim

      Re: Catch C19

      Danny 2» Don't mourn, organise.

      And maintain social distancing regulations while you do so, so that the management don't have a stick to beat you with.

      1. overunder Silver badge

        Re: Catch C19

        "And maintain social distancing regulations while you do so, so that the management don't have a stick to beat you with."

        But should you be punished for associating with a known felon? If so, even in both cases, "management" is given too much leverage. I'm not implying that what you're saying is entirely wrong (because it's certainly not) , but if given the opportunity to take a better path is possible, then choose that path. Amazon doesn't only have the opportunity for a better path, but they are choosing conveniently which path better suits their business model, not their employees. Basically, Amazon pulled out their company fish bowl and decided to give it a shine without thinking about the fish.

  6. Tom 38 Silver badge
    Stop

    1 simple rule for employee action

    If you want to be annoying to your employer, don't do things that give them cause, or they won't be your employer any more.

  7. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

    That seems extremely reasonable. He's lucky he's not in prison for endangering the lives of others.

  8. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    Unions? who needs them?

    Employee: That machine is dangerous and can kill/maim the users

    Employers : you're sacked

    Employee: That machine is dangerous and can kill/maim users

    Employer : we just sacked the last guy who complained, now get on and use it

    Employee: Aiieeeeeeeeeee <wet squelching noises>

    Employer: You're sacked for not using the machine properly, plus getting blood everywhere.

    Employee: What about my medical bills?

    Employer: You're not an employee anymore, therefore not covered by our medical insurance

    Ex-employee: But I was injured working for you

    Employer : Sue us, by the way our team of lawyers cost 1million a month, be prepared to pay that if you lose.

    Ok the above case is a little extreme, but that shows the value of unions to bring to heel a bad employer

    PS

    Union lawyer : Thus the employer owes the employee damages.

    Court judge: You are liable for the injuries to Mr Lucky, you owe him 3 million in damages, 3 million in medical claims,and 500 million in punative damages for being an arsehole

    Employer :FUCK... get me a congressman to change this law on employees organising

    1. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

      Re: Unions? who needs them?

      The problem is not the idea of unions but the implementation (I'm speaking from experience in the States, YMMV). The bigger unions (UAW, Teamsters, etc) have all been just as bad or worse than the corporation they are working against. They generally started out ok, but as they grew they progressively got worse. The growth to "evil" seems to be about on par with corporations. Many start out small and responsive to their employees (MS, Google) and get taken over by business people.

      Now you still have backlash against unions because they've been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Unfortunately, the worst of the union misdeeds occurred in the 70s, but their reputation is still paying for it. Now the power pendulum has swung back towards the corporations and they are taking full advantage of it.

      We are starting to see a new attitude coming out of most business schools. Hopefully the pendulum will start swinging back. This pandemic has thrown a whole set of monkey wrenches in the works and I'm curious what the long term effects will be.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Unions? who needs them?

      *ahem* all you need to do is complain to OSHA within the USA and they'll take care of any workplace safety issues. Managements comply with OSHA because they *FEAR* OSHA and for good reason.

      Does UK have a similar oversight/regulation ministry? Just curious... [I would expect so]

      Every time I consult I check for OSHA compliance that I'm aware of, just to make a point. Typically I'll just tell them "you need a XXX to comply". [I do this with lots of things, GPL even]. Last time I ran into this the company had no eyewash but was working with chemicals. But it was in the owner's garage, so what can you do? Needless to say, entry/exit was too dark at night (in an alley, through an old door), parking was pathetic, but it was a startup and it paid. So there ya go. Later they got an office and several regular on-site employees. Then later after that, lost funding. Ah, well.

      (but yeah you needed eyewash and fireproof lockers and other OSHA compliance things to work with chemicals like finishes and polymers and fiberglass and ... you get the idea)

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Unions? who needs them?

        Health and Safety Executive from 1973.

        But before that, even during the worst oppression of the workers by the aristocratic Whigs [ who were the government that transported 6 farm labourers for forming their own teeny tiny 'union' ( The Tolpuddle Martyrs ) ] and their allies, the Manchester Liberals [ quite Ayn Randian freaks of the later Thatcherite ilk, who opposed anything that did not make entrepreneurs rich ], we had Factory Acts starting in 1833.

        Mostly by Radical Tories, who were nothing like modern Tories...

        .

        .

        However through the 19th and 20th centuries the Union movement got stronger and stronger, and were mostly responsible --- rather than the random benevolence of factory masters or the muppets in parliament --- for the strong regulations for safety etc. which numpties now point out as a reason unions are no longer needed.

        I have always noted tyrannies, including the French revolutionaries and gilded age America and Bolsheviks --- and their crawling flunkeys --- are always shown by their hatred for Trade Unions.

        And no, I have never been in a union myself, not being in such where they were.

        .

        .

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_and_Safety_Executive

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factory_Acts

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Unions? who needs them?

        "(but yeah you needed eyewash and fireproof lockers and other OSHA compliance things to work with chemicals like finishes and polymers and fiberglass and ... you get the idea)"

        Sometimes those tiny startups are where you are given a chance when large companies are just tossing your resume in the trash because you don't have a degree to go with that 10 years of experience. You hope that you aren't working with other people that prone to be a fire hazard or slosh about chemicals that deserve respectful handling. Some of those ground floor opportunities can be very lucrative so you accept some higher level of risk for a period of time. If it's an established business that just a bit to casual with safety to save a few pennies, that's different.

        I left an aerospace job due to the company not having much in the way of "adult supervision". Some safety items were adhered to, but others were allowed by management to be ignored. When I brought them up, I was told to not bring it up again. I bailed without a safety net. Better scrounging for work than maimed.

  9. SVV Silver badge

    We are not anti-union, but we are not neutral either

    Simple logic would then conclude that you must be PRO union, if you are not neutral or anti. But of course these days all the worst people in the world have cottoned onto the fact that you don't actually have to say anything that is logically consistent or truthful any more when covering up or excusing some awfulness. Just make it convoluted and confusing and slightly meaningful sounding and many people will accept it without further consideration.

    1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: We are not anti-union, but we are not neutral either

      we are not anti-union but prefer they don't exist.

      This one really struck me: "We are not anti-union, but we are not neutral either. We do not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers or shareholders or most importantly, our associates." Unions are there for the workers, idiots!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "We are not anti-union, but we are not neutral either. We do not believe unions are in the best interest of our customers or shareholders or most importantly, our associates."

    Ok, so not anti, not neutral. That means they are pro! That's the only remaining option, right?

    The set of stances are: pro, neutral, anti.

    They are neither anti nor neutral.

    I am sure she has just misunderstood Amazon's union policy, she clearly states it can be nothing but pro. We should let them know.

    Unions for everyone! Yay! Oh wait, is this why I don't get promoted to manager ... I am not wrong ... that matters ... right? Oh they've hung up.

    Anonymous because I like my job.

    #NotAntiButAnti

  11. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Happy

    Kish disputed Smalls's claims, and praised the heroism of Amazon workers. "These accusations are simply unfounded," she said. "Of the more 5,000 employees at our Staten Island site, 15 people – less than half a percent of associates – participated in Monday’s demonstration."

    Even less if you count robots as employees.

  12. Claverhouse Silver badge

    The company last month boosted pay for Amazon and Whole Foods hourly employees in the US and Canada by $2 an hour and £2 per hour for employees in the UK during the month of April.

    For once the equal number for USA/UK for prices works in Britons' favour.

  13. heyrick Silver badge

    Welcome to The Land of the Free

    Free to be screwed by your employer.

  14. andy 103 Silver badge
    Stop

    Bit of a non-story

    All of the answers are in this paragraph:

    "Kish said Smalls had received multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines and had been asked to remain home with pay for two week because he had been in the proximity of another worker confirmed to have COVID-19. By ignoring that instruction and coming on-site, she said, he was putting colleagues at risk."

    There are still some people who don't think the rules on this are clear. Despite the fact they are very clear, and rules.

    Sounds like another jumped up twunt who thinks they can do whatever because of "my rights" regardless of whether it endangers others.

    1. The First Dave Silver badge

      Re: Bit of a non-story

      So, do you really think that either side are telling the truth 100%, or do you think there may be have been a little attempt (from the professional HR / PR person in particular) to spin this even slightly in their favour?

      For example, compare "asked to remain home" with "instruction" later on - the former sounds like it emanates from an informal remark: "why don't you stay home if you are worried?" which is a long way away from the formal warning that they are trying to imply.

      1. andy 103 Silver badge

        Re: Bit of a non-story

        There's a lot of people who are not taking on board the rules - and note that they are indeed rules - about not attending work especially when it comes to endangering others.

        Do I believe Amazon gave this person a warning not to come in? Yes, because given the current situation, that's very commonplace. Do I believe the employee decided to ignore it? Again yes, because there's plenty of other people doing the same thing. It's a distinct possibility.

        Granted they may not have liked the cut of his jib and decided this was a "convenient" way to let him go. But on balance of probabilities it sounds like what Amazon said happened is entirely plausible and that may be the whole story. Sorry that this doesn't make it interesting for people who like conspiracies and to try and come up with a different side to absolutely any set of circumstances.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Bit of a non-story

          I am still confused why this is plausible. Could Amazon want to keep him at home? Absolutely. But if they did, why did he insist on coming back in? In their statement, Amazon said that he would continue to receive pay while at home, so if he came in, why? Was the work that fun? People ignore social distancing requirements all the time, but they usually have some reason. They were bored and wanted to meet with friends. They wanted to buy things that they didn't necessarily need. They wanted to go out and make extra money. But I see no reason this guy would have wanted to come to a workplace he thought was unsafe when he wouldn't get anything for doing so.

          I posted a comment similar to this earlier, but the votes on that one seem to indicate that I don't know what I'm talking about. Could someone please explain why I'm wrong?

          1. andy 103 Silver badge

            Re: Bit of a non-story

            But I see no reason this guy would have wanted to come to a workplace he thought was unsafe when he wouldn't get anything for doing so.

            Either he came in, or he didn't. It's one or the other. It would take some serious balls on Amazon's part to fabricate that he had shown up when he hadn't, in a sacking case. Equally, him being given a warning not to come in, is presumably something Amazon would have evidence of - and on that basis used it to dismiss him.

            It is plausible Amazon have neither of these things on him. But it seems highly unlikely in this case.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              Re: Bit of a non-story

              I'm not going to accuse Amazon or this worker of lying about any of this, but if someone wanted to, there are some very easy lies that make a lot more sense. Instead of lying that he came in when he didn't, Amazon could lie that he was told not to. It is difficult to prove a verbal remark was made. If he wanted to come to work for whatever reason but was told not to, he could either lie that he was ever told not to or lie that someone informed him informally that he had to. The major problem remains, though. The story Amazon's using doesn't make a bunch of sense to me, whereas it has been called plausible above. Since it makes sense to somebody, I'd like to hear the theories that I've not thought to consider.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Bit of a non-story

              "It would take some serious balls on Amazon's part to fabricate that he had shown up when he hadn't, in a sacking case"

              Where the heck did you get that? Total disconnection from the rest of the world.

              Sacking a peon for any reason *is a no-brainer* for Amazon: They fire *thousands* of people every month.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bit of a non-story

          So basically you taking everything corporate professional shill says at face value, as if it were, not only true, but whole truth.

          Why? Corporate shills are getting six figure salary for being professional liars. Which part of that you choose to ignore while repeating yourself by talking about rules.

          For the corporation rules never mean anything at all, they exist solely for bullshitting the workers.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bit of a non-story

          "But on balance of probabilities"

          Rule #1: Corporate shill *lies every time*.

          They literally *are paid to do so*. Which part of that you chose to ignore, and why?

          Rule #2: See rule #1.

          There's "balance of propabilities" for you. Straight from reality.

    2. tin 2

      Re: Bit of a non-story

      That makes the massive whacking assumption that any of that is true.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bit of a non-story

      "Kish said"

      Which part implies any of that is even near true?

      "Despite the fact they are very clear, and rules."

      So? When you about everything, you *lie about everything*, including the rules.

      Yet another puppet who actually believes what company spokesperson, i.e. puppet, says. Every one of them is hired only and *only* because they are professional liars.

  15. low_resolution_foxxes Bronze badge

    Must be said, putting aside my positive opinion of the labour union movement, my general opinion is that if you are going to upset your employer, you need to play by the book and the rules, do not give them an excuse to get rid of you.

    If he actually received "multiple" warnings to go home as is claimed, he has only himself to blame.

    There are missing details on this case, the original problem seems to relate to Amazon's regular practice of requiring a 3rd party to confirm sick leave (medical or colleague). The fired guy decided to take unapproved absence for a week, claiming fear of Coronavirus. He then came back into the office, where he sent home a colleague who had COVID (positive diagnosed case), the management got involved and HR decided to send him home with paid leave for 2 weeks due to contact with COVID (as per Amazon's official policy)

    In a rather illogical move, he turned up to work the following day, allegedly with external union protesters (about 50% not employed by Amazon, apparently). The second illogical move was to pose for photos without masks, PPE and within about 0.5m of each other. Chris then went on to make media statements saying they had unsanitary conditions and called for a closure and strike. He seems a bit "quirky" to say the least, he covered his head and face with a black mask and wore tiger print (perhaps he watched Tiger King the night before?).

    I'm not saying I agree with it, I would like to think I would do the same as Chris, but I'm not surprised they fired him, if only for the media statements.

    By the way, I'm not claiming Amazon are innocent in all this crap, I'm sure their HR department will have kept detailed records to cover their ass while they found a decent reason.

  16. Claverhouse Silver badge

    Ditto

    The commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt has been removed after saying the US Navy was not doing enough to halt a coronavirus outbreak on board the aircraft carrier.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-52145230

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Amazon spokesperson Kristen Kish denied the firing had anything to do with protected labor activity. "We did not terminate Mr Smalls employment for organizing a 15-person protest," "

    Yea, right. And if anyone believes a word from that BS, I have a bridge to sell to them. Amazon and their spokespersons are Satan incarnated. No more, no less.

    Also Amazon systematically fires anyone who complains. Illegal or not, they don't give a f**k. They have *so much money* they'll win in court. Every time so no worries for them.

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