Amazon Workers Stage Mass Walkout in New York Over Safety Conditions

More than a hundred Amazon workers staged a walkout, refusing to return to work after a fire broke out at a warehouse in New York City.

Christian Smalls, the president of the Amazon Labor Union, said night shift workers at the Amazon JFK8 distribution center in Staten Island were demanding to be sent home with pay after a fire broke out at the facility on Monday.

"After a raging fire on ship dock 500 plus workers sat in the break room demanding to be sent home with pay for safety due to the smoke," he wrote on Twitter early on Tuesday.

"@amazonlabor Lead organizers are now Marching on the Boss with hundreds of workers!"

Smalls also shared a video on Twitter showing the fire at the facility, in which a worker can be heard yelling "evacuate."

"Yet Amazon refuses to let Night Shift be excused with pay," Smalls tweeted, adding that the "burnt chemicals from the compactor still linger by docks."

"Hundreds of workers want to go home. Amazon will be held accountable," he said.

Amazon spokesperson Paul Flaningan said a small fire broke out at a compactor that breaks down cardboard boxes at the facility on Monday, but that the New York Fire Department had certified the building as safe.

"Yesterday afternoon there was a small fire in a cardboard compactor outside of JFK8, one of our facilities in Staten Island, New York," Flaningan said in a statement to Newsweek.

"All employees were safely evacuated, and day shift employees were sent home with pay. The FDNY certified the building is safe and at that point we asked all night shift employees to report to their regularly scheduled shift. While the vast majority of employees reported to their workstations, a small group refused to return to work and remained in the building without permission."

Derrick Palmer, the vice president of the Amazon Labor Union, said workers were refusing to work their night shift because they were worried about fumes from the fire.

Palmer said a manager threatened workers with write-ups if they didn't return to work, according to Noam Scheiber, a labor reporter for The New York Times.

Earlier, Amazon management reportedly placed hundreds of workers in the facility's cafeteria but did not immediately inform them if they would be going home or back to work.

"A lot of workers have been saying they need to send us home and with pay; some are saying that now is the time to strike," a night shift worker told journalist Jordan Chariton.

"There's been lots of agitation and conversations talking about being exploited by the bosses and this is typical Amazon, typical corporate failure to take care of their employees."

The action comes after workers at the Staten Island warehouse made history by voting to unionize on April 1, establishing the retailer's first organized facility in the U.S.

Amazon had sought to overturn the vote, saying the union had acted improperly and has continued to resist unionization efforts at other facilities.

Smalls, the Amazon Labor Union and Amazon have been contacted for further comment.

Amazon workers rally
Supporters of Amazon workers attempting to win a second union election at the LDJ5 Amazon Sort Center join a rally in support of the union on April 24, 2022 in Staten Island, New York. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images