More than 50 warehouse employees and community members joined a pro-unionization rally Feb. 20 outside an Amazon warehouse in Troutdale that has seen 217 COVID-19 cases.
The employees alleged unsafe working conditions and argued they need union protections—the latest example of nationwide labor organizing at Amazon distribution centers.
An employee of a North Portland Amazon warehouse, who identified himself as Keith, said he is a military veteran and formerly homeless.
"None of that was as difficult as the year and a half I have spent working at an Amazon warehouse," Keith said. "It is the worst. It is more dehumanizing, more degrading, more isolating and more injurious and hazardous to my health than being in the United States Army."
Brian Denning, an organizer for the Amazon Workers Solidarity Campaign, said during the rally that social distancing inside the Troutdale warehouse was "virtually impossible" during the pandemic.
Amazon defends its safety practices, and adds: "Amazon already offers what unions are requesting for employees."
"Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our teams," the company said in a statement to WW. "Last year alone we invested billions of dollars in new operations safety measures, ranging from technology investments in safety to masks, gloves, and the enhanced cleaning and sanitization required to protect employees from the spread of Covid-19. We also expanded our global workplace health and safety team to more than 6,000 employees who use Amazon's innovation, technology and data insights to ensure the highest standards to keep our employees safe."
As WW previously reported, the Troutdale facility requires employees to sign strict confidentiality agreements—a practice that labor lawyers describe as draconian. More than 450 Amazon employees at eight workplaces statewide have tested positive for the virus, according to data from the Oregon Health Authority.