Amazon workers, community members protest outside Jeff Bezos' NYC home for better COVID-19 protections

New York legislators have a chance to stand up for essential workers

Amazon workers and community members vying for stricter workplace safety standards during the COVID-19 pandemic took their fight to Jeff Bezos' Manhattan home Wednesday.

Protesters gathered outside the Amazon chief executive's multimillion-dollar Fifth Avenue residence to call attention to Bezos and other CEOs who they claim have made billions during the global health crisis while putting workers' lives at risk.

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"Workers will call out Jeff Bezos and other CEOs as 'pandemic profiteers' who have made billions while putting workers and their families, friends, and neighbors at risk," according to ALIGN NY, one of the groups that organized the rally.

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The organization, along with numerous other workers, is calling for state lawmakers to pass the New York Health and Essential Rights Act, otherwise known as the NY HERO Act. The legislation would mandate the Departments of Labor and Health to implement minimum standards for workplace safety, enforceable through significant fines. Regulations would include protocols on testing, PPE, social distancing, hand hygiene, disinfection and engineering controls.

Amazon protest on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan (Patrick Nevada of ALIGN)

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According to ALIGN, Amazon and other major corporations have "virtually ignored the needs of essential-worker New Yorkers and their neighbors" since the onset of the pandemic.

"New York legislators have a chance to stand up for essential workers at Amazon and other large corporations by passing the NY HERO Act and ensuring that workers are protected and have a real say in the safety of their workplace," ALIGN's Executive Director Maritza Silva-Farrell told FOX Business. "We need to make the NY HERO Act a priority."

The organization pointed to the more than 19,000 Amazon front-line U.S. employees, or 1.44% of its total workforce, including Whole Foods workers, who have either tested positive or have been presumed positive for the virus. Amazon had released those figures in a blog post in November along with plans to boost daily tests in an effort to keep front-line employees safe. Amazon had said that the cases were 42% lower than its expected estimate of 33,952 cases, which the company noted is based on if the rate of infection among employees were as bad as the general population.

Amazon protest on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan ( Patrick Nevada of ALIGN)

However, Amazon rebukes the organization's claims saying they are a "series of misleading assertions by misinformed or self-interested groups who are using Amazon’s profile to further their individual causes."

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"Amazon has a strong track record of supporting our people, our customers, and our communities, including providing safe working conditions," an Amazon spokesperson told FOX Business.

Amazon protest on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan ( Patrick Nevada of ALIGN)

According to a company blog post, which was last updated on Nov. 27, Amazon made over 150 process updates including enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures.

The company also says it distributed personal protective gear, implemented disinfectant spraying and temperature checks across its global operations.

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Amazon also said it's offering extra time off with full pay for those diagnosed with COVID-19 and established an employee relief fund for delivery drivers and seasonal associates facing financial hardship or quarantine.

However, this isn't the first time workers have drawn concern over Amazon's operations.

In August, an ex-Amazon worker Christian Smalls led a protest of the corporation's coronavirus standards in New York City. Nearly, two months later, one Amazon employee disclosed that the company "didn't have a plan" to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks, according to an extensive report obtained by NBC News.

Earlier this year, more than a dozen state attorneys general signed onto a letter requesting detailed information on what measures Amazon has taken to strengthen its worker protection policies.

“Amazon and Whole Foods must take every possible step to protect their employees and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement in May. “We again call on these companies to provide assurances that they are complying with state laws and federal guidance aimed at keeping essential workers safe during this crisis.”

FOX Business' Lucas Manfredi contributed to this report. 

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