Source: Bryon Johnson/Metroland

Online retail giant Amazon’s warehouse in Brampton has been ordered to shut down by Peel Region public health officials. The workers have been ordered to self-isolate for two weeks. The isolation period will continue till 12:01 a.m. March 27, 2021. There have been 240 cases at the facility over the last two weeks, with ten of those cases being “variants of concern”. There have been 617 positive cases in Brampton’s Amazon warehouse since October. 

Brampton has also diverted neighbourhood bus routes at the urging of ATU Local 1573 representing transport workers because of outbreaks traced to the Amazon facility. ATU extends solidarity to the Amazon workers. 

Amazon plans to appeal Peel Public Health’s decision, claiming that they “ do not believe the data supports this closure, and we will appeal this decision,”. Are 617 positive  cases in one warehouse not a cause for concern? 

And what of Amazon’s workers? How will they  pay their bills during the isolation period? Will Amazon continue to pay them while they isolate? Amazon says so, but their track record of treatment of their employees does not inspire confidence. With workers at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama location unionizing despite their employer’s efforts we can hope for a growing unionization drive across Amazon’s corporate empire. We can contrast the difference in bargaining power between Brampton’s unionized bus drivers and un-unionized Amazon Heritage employees. While many go “back to normal”, the unsung essential workers like those at Amazon are left dangerously vulnerable.  

It is clear that Amazon workers cannot depend on the corporation to protect their wellbeing in the pandemic. The organized labour movement must step in to help organize all 5000 workers against their callous employer. If labour leadership does not, then the workers will have to act to protect their own safety, without the approval of the labour bureaucracy. Workers clearly cannot rely on the benevolence of their employer when their wellbeing is at stake.