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Workers’ rights: another casualty of coronavirus?

Amazon has fired a striking warehouse worker for allegedly violating its ‘social distancing’ policy.

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Topics Covid-19 Politics USA

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An Amazon warehouse worker has been fired after organising a strike demanding better measures against coronavirus.

According to CNBC, Chris Smalls managed to rally 50 workers to walk out of Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse on Monday afternoon. A worker in the facility had contracted coronavirus, prompting understandable anguish among the workforce.

— Bloomberg TV (@BloombergTV) March 30, 2020

After the walkout, Smalls was promptly dismissed. The reason given by Amazon was that Smalls had failed to heed guidelines around ‘social distancing’ and was therefore putting ‘the safety of others at risk’.

The New York City attorney general has branded the sacking ‘disgraceful’, pointing out that retaliatory action following a strike is illegal.

I'm considering all legal options & calling on the NLRB to investigate.

Amazon, this is disgraceful. https://t.co/Cgu09LmwHL

— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) March 31, 2020

What has become clear from the Covid-19 crisis is that the clamour to ‘do something’ about it has empowered busybodies in authority to enforce countermeasures as they see fit.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, police are getting away with harassing members of the public under dubious pretences. And as Chris Smalls’ case shows, companies like Amazon are testing the waters to see if unacceptable, authoritarian behaviour can be excused as merely the strict enforcement of a Covid-19 policy.

Political protests, union meetings and strikes all have the potential to be quashed by the overly zealous enforcement of ‘social distancing’ rules. Will we soon be adding workers’ rights to the list of casualties of Covid-19?

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Covid-19 Politics USA

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