Dozens of Amazon employees at two Chicago-area facilities walked off the job during the final stretch of holiday deliveries on Wednesday, citing the company’s shortened break times and unwillingness to increase wages, Business Insider reports.
The walkouts took place at Amazon’s delivery centers in Gage Park and Cicero, according to the Chicago Tribune. A video from Amazonians United Chicagoland, a group representing local Amazon workers, was posted to Facebook, explaining the demands.
“We’re here demanding a $5 increase for our wages, and as well, a return to the 20-minute breaks that we had during the pandemic,” said a worker. According to the same employee, Amazon had cut five minutes from their break time because the pandemic was “supposedly” over despite confirmation of three new cases the day before.
Amazon has said it will not retaliate against workers who took part in the protest. “We respect the rights of employees to protest and recognize their legal right to do so,” Amazon spokesman Richard Rocha told Insider. “We are proud to offer employees leading pay, competitive benefits, and the opportunity to grow with our company.”
According to the company, starting wages at the two Chicago-area facilities are approximately $16 an hour.
Amazon has been accused of permitting dangerous working conditions during the pandemic and underreporting the number of positive COVID-19 cases among its employees. The company also made headlines recently when a tornado struck its Edwardsville, Illinois, facility, leaving six Amazon workers dead. Just before the tornado hit, an Amazon driver was told by a supervisor to continue delivering packages during the life-threatening storm or risk losing her job.