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Amazon first warehouse-worker death from COVID-19 as firm sacks three workers calling for safety

A worker at an Amazon warehouse in Southern California has died from the coronavirus.

Gerard Tuzara worked as an operations manager at Amazon’s Hawthorne facility near LAX airport.  

Tuzara is thought to have passed away on March 31st and is the first known employee from the company to die from the disease. 

His death comes as an increasing number of claims have been leveled at the company over the level to which the company is providing safety protections for the workers in its warehouses and delivery workers. 

Gerard Tuzara, an operations manager at a fulfillment center in Southern California died from the virus on March 31

Gerard Tuzara, an operations manager at a fulfillment center in Southern California died from the virus on March 31

Gerard Tuzara, an operations manager at a fulfillment center in Southern California died from the virus on March 31

Tuzara's death is the first known COVID-19 death among Amazon’s workforce

Tuzara's death is the first known COVID-19 death among Amazon’s workforce

Tuzara’s death is the first known COVID-19 death among Amazon’s workforce

Family members including Tuzara's sister and brother posted tributes online

Family members including Tuzara's sister and brother posted tributes online

Family members including Tuzara’s sister and brother posted tributes online

Gerard Tuzara was formerly an officer in the U.S. Air Force before he began working at Amazon

Gerard Tuzara was formerly an officer in the U.S. Air Force before he began working at Amazon

Gerard Tuzara was formerly an officer in the U.S. Air Force before he began working at Amazon

‘We are saddened by the passing of a member of our management team in Hawthorne, California. His family and loved ones are in our thoughts, and we are supporting his fellow colleagues,’ a spokesperson said in a statement.

It’s not known exactly where Tuzara first contracted the disease. 

Tuzara’s last day of work was March 6 after which point he was on vacation in Mexico until March 20. 

A week later, he began experiencing flu-like symptoms and was admitted to hospital according to Business Insider. 

He passed away on March 31st. 

One of Tuzara’s friends wrote a tribute which has been posted in the warehouse where he worked.  

‘Gerry was an Air Force officer, a loving husband, son and uncle,’ the letter read. ‘He will be greatly missed.’ 

Family members also posted their own touching tributes including Tuzara’s sister, Jess. 

‘Today, i lost a big piece of me. My big brother Gerard lost his fight to Covid 19. I refuse to believe you’re not here anymore. Everything feels so unreal and i wish to wake up from this. I feel so helpless not being able to see, hold nor talk to you one last time. I would give everything back to tell and make you feel one last time that we love you. Im sorry you left with no one by your side. I’m mad, why didn’t u fight harder we’re willing to wait weeks or months or even years for you to recover, why just 4 days? Everything has gone by so fast it feels unreal.’

Tuzara had traveled to Mexico from March 7-20 and began experiencing symptoms on March 26. He was hospitalized at that time and died on March 31st

Tuzara had traveled to Mexico from March 7-20 and began experiencing symptoms on March 26. He was hospitalized at that time and died on March 31st

Tuzara had traveled to Mexico from March 7-20 and began experiencing symptoms on March 26. He was hospitalized at that time and died on March 31st

Tuzara worked as an operations manager at Amazon's Hawthorne facility near LAX airport

Tuzara worked as an operations manager at Amazon's Hawthorne facility near LAX airport

Tuzara worked as an operations manager at Amazon’s Hawthorne facility near LAX airport

The terminations came just two weeks after the company fired another employee Christian Smalls, pictured

The terminations came just two weeks after the company fired another employee Christian Smalls, pictured

The terminations came just two weeks after the company fired another employee Christian Smalls, pictured

There have been public calls by Amazon’s employees for safer working conditions for those working in the company’s warehouse and for its delivery workers. 

In March a walkout was held at the company’s Staten Island facility with up to 50 workers striking.    

Chris Smalls who organized the walkout was then fired by the company.

Smalls was dismissed on the grounds that he put others at risk by violating his paid quarantine when he joined the demonstration at the Staten Island fulfillment center. 

On Friday, the company fired two user experience designers, Maren Costa and Emily Cunningham, for what it called repeated violations of internal policies, without specifying which ones.

The two workers, who gained prominence for pushing the company to do more on climate change, had recently made public statements questioning Amazon’s pandemic safety measures and pledging to match donations of up to $500 to support staff at risk of getting the virus.

Designers Emily Cunningham, pictured, and Maren Costa, both critics of the online retail giant's working conditions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, were fired from Amazon

Designers Emily Cunningham, pictured, and Maren Costa, both critics of the online retail giant's working conditions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, were fired from Amazon

Designers Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, pictured, both critics of the online retail giant's working conditions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, were fired from Amazon

Designers Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, pictured, both critics of the online retail giant's working conditions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, were fired from Amazon

Designers Emily Cunningham, left, and Maren Costa, right, both critics of the online retail giant’s working conditions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, were fired from Amazon 

The e-commerce giant also said it dismissed Bashir Mohamed, a warehouse worker in Minnesota, ‘for inappropriate language, behavior, and violating social distancing guidelines.’ 

In statements, Cunningham said she believed Amazon could play a powerful role during the crisis, but to do so, ‘we have to really listen to the workers who are on the front line, who don´t feel adequately protected.’

Costa said in her statement, ‘No company should punish their employees for showing concern for one another, especially during a pandemic!’

Mohamed, the associate fired in Minnesota, had organized for better working conditions and started pushing for more site cleaning and protective measures.  

It’s believed there are at least 74 Amazon facilities with employees who have been infected, according to The Washington Post.  

There have been growing cases among Amazon’s workforce which have seen the company come under criticism from labor activists and politicians

There have been growing cases among Amazon’s workforce which have seen the company come under criticism from labor activists and politicians

There have been growing cases among Amazon’s workforce which have seen the company come under criticism from labor activists and politicians

Amazon employees held a protest and walked out over conditions at the company's Staten Island distribution facility last month

Amazon employees held a protest and walked out over conditions at the company's Staten Island distribution facility last month

Amazon employees held a protest and walked out over conditions at the company’s Staten Island distribution facility last month 

Amazon has not revealed any figures regarding the number of employees affected by the disease but is promising to improve safety for its workers including providing face masks and temperature checks. 

In a statement, Amazon said, ‘We respect the rights of employees to protest and recognize their legal right to do so; however, these rights do not provide blanket immunity against bad actions, particularly those that endanger the health, well-being or safety of their colleagues.’ 

Hourly pay has also been increased for its workers by $2/hour and those that are diagnosed with the disease will receive paid sick leave. 

Public pressure continued on Tuesday as Senator Bernie Sanders pressed for Amazon to provide a safer workplace

Public pressure continued on Tuesday as Senator Bernie Sanders pressed for Amazon to provide a safer workplace

Public pressure continued on Tuesday as Senator Bernie Sanders pressed for Amazon to provide a safer workplace

After Smalls was fired in March, New York City opened an investigation and five Democratic U.S. Senators wrote to Amazon’s chief executive Jeff Bezos asking him to explain what happened. 

Public pressure continued on Tuesday as Senator Bernie Sanders pressed for Amazon to provide a safer workplace.

‘Instead of firing employees who want justice, maybe Jeff Bezos—the richest man in the world—can focus on providing his workers with paid sick leave, a safe workplace, and a livable planet,’ Sanders tweeted.  

Workers at the Staten Island facility has had numerous employees test positive for the coronavirus and wanted to call attention to what they say is a lack of protections for employees who continue to come to work amid the coronavirus outbreak

Workers at the Staten Island facility has had numerous employees test positive for the coronavirus and wanted to call attention to what they say is a lack of protections for employees who continue to come to work amid the coronavirus outbreak

Workers at the Staten Island facility has had numerous employees test positive for the coronavirus and wanted to call attention to what they say is a lack of protections for employees who continue to come to work amid the coronavirus outbreak

 

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