Reps. Tlaib and Dingell confronted by police before finding 'unsafe conditions' at Amazon warehouse in Romulus



U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Dingell were in for a surprise when they visited an Amazon fulfillment center in Romulus to investigate complaints about unsafe work conditions amid the coronavirus.

Although the company invited them and knew about their visit, the Democratic congresswomen said Amazon called the police on them shortly after they arrived Friday evening.

“Despite their claims to the contrary, there was no misunderstanding,” Tlaib and Dingell said in a joint statement Tuesday morning. “They knew exactly who we were.”

Amazon could not be immediately reached for comment.

Then the congresswomen said they were forced to wait outside the warehouse for more than an hour and a half while they said workers “scrambled to clean areas visible to us.”

During the evening shift change, the congresswomen said “hundreds of workers passed through a poorly designed entrance procedure that allowed many to bypass temperature screenings altogether.”

When Tlaib and Dingell were allowed to enter the warehouse, known as DTW1, they discovered what they described as “unacceptable and unsafe conditions that workers have been telling our offices for months.”

On April 1, some Amazon workers walked off the job to protest a lack of coronavirus protections. Similar protests have been staged at other Amazon warehouses.

Here’s what the congresswomen said they observed: 
“There were crude ‘sanitizer stations’ in various locations within DTW1, but we did not observe one worker able to utilize them. The conveyer belts are in continuous motion, multiple workers in close proximity are touching the same products as they move through the facility, and no worker has any time to properly sanitize their work station or wash their hands.

We’ve been told that while Amazon supposedly suspended quotas during the pandemic, managers are still holding workers to quotas with write-ups and terminations. In our entire tour of the plant, including multiple floors, we observed just one worker with a cleaning supplies cart. There were a few personnel who appeared to have COVID-19 safety roles, but we only observed them in the entryway and nowhere else throughout the massive warehouse.” 

They added, “Employee screening is poorly executed, cleaning is insufficient, social distancing is often difficult or impossible, and Amazon’s relentless quota system does not allow for breaks for adequate personal hygiene.”

The congresswomen said they plan to release photos and video footage from the visit and pledged to continue fighting for a safe working environment at the Amazon warehouse.

“Amazon has been posting record sales throughout the pandemic, only possible thanks to its fulfillment center workforce,” they said. “It’s far past time that Amazon workers share in that prosperity, and having a safe workplace is the least Amazon can do. We are grateful to the Amazon workers on the floor who thanked us for being there, and we will not stop advocating for their right to a safe and fair working environment.”

Amazon is hoping to build a large fulfillment center that would create at least 1,200 new jobs at the old Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan announced last month. If all goes as planned, the center would open in 2022.

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