Amazon soliciting public donations to pay workers' sick leave

While much of the economy grinds to a halt, Amazon is doing more business than ever. The company has announced it is hiring 100,000 workers to try to meet surging demand. In 2019, Amazon had over $280 billion in revenue and $11.9 billion in profits. As more Americans shift their shopping online, it will likely do better this year. But, as the pandemic continues, Amazon maintains one of the stingiest paid sick leave policies among major corporations. 

As Popular Information reported last week, a significant number of Amazon's workforce — particularly part-time employees and contract workers — are not receiving paid sick time.

In response to the pandemic, Amazon said it would provide two weeks of sick leave to "all Amazon employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine." Kroger had a similar policy until Saturday when Kroger expanded its policy to cover workers with COVID-19 symptoms or who need to care for sick family members. Amazon, however, has held firm. 

Amazon's large contract workforce, which delivers packages and performs other critical tasks, is in even worse shape. Amazon is not providing any sick leave at all for these workers, even if they test positive for COVID-19. Instead, these workers must apply to the "Amazon Relief Fund" and apply for a grant to cover their sick leave. The fund is "focused on supporting our U.S.-based Delivery Associates employed by Delivery Service Providers, our Amazon Flex Delivery Partners, and Associates working for Integrity Staffing, Adecco Staffing, and RES Staffing, and drivers and support team members of line haul partners under financial distress due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or quarantine."

Amazon donated $25 million to the fund and is soliciting individual donations to add to the pot. It initially included an option to donate by text.

Isn't it a bit unseemly for Amazon, a company owned by the richest person in the world, to be soliciting donations to pay for workers' sick leave? Why isn't Amazon just paying people who contracted COVID-19 while doing essential work for Amazon? 

Instead of changing its policy, Amazon tweaked the wording of its solicitation and eliminated the option to donate by text.

Amazon has increased its hourly pay by $2 per hour and doubled pay for overtime. Higher pay is a positive. But combined with minimal paid sick leave, increased hourly rates further incentivizes Amazon workers to show up sick.  

Two weeks ago, Popular Information's reporting resulted in Darden, the parent company of Olive Garden, providing paid sick leave to 170,000 employees. This week, following multiple reports in this newsletter, Kroger significantly expanded its paid sick leave policy for 450,000 workers.

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The danger of Trump's press conferences 

Trump has been the most consistent source of misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Americans are inundated with false information during Trump's daily press conference, which Trump uses to air grievances and make wild claims.

In a March 19 press conference, Trump extolled the virtues of an anti-malaria drug called chloroquine, describing it as a safe and promising treatment for COVID-19. 

Now, a drug called chloroquine — and some people would add to it “hydroxy-.”  Hydroxychloroquine. So chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. Now, this is a common malaria drug.  It is also a drug used for strong arthritis. If somebody has pretty serious arthritis, also uses this in a somewhat different form.  But it is known as a malaria drug, and it’s been around for a long time and it’s very powerful. But the nice part is, it’s been around for a long time, so we know that if it — if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody.

...And it’s shown very encouraging — very, very encouraging early results.  And we’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately. And that’s where the FDA has been so great.  They — they’ve gone through the approval process; it’s been approved. And they did it — they took it down from many, many months to immediate.  So we’re going to be able to make that drug available by prescription or states.

Later in the press conference, the FDA Commission, Dr. Stephen Hahn, was forced to clarify that the FDA has not approved chloroquine to treat COVID-19 and has no plans to immediately make it available for that purpose. Instead, Hahn said, the FDA would conduct "a clinical trial — a large, pragmatic clinical trial" to "actually see if that benefits patients."

Trump was not dissuaded. "Dr. Hahn is the expert, but a lot of reasons that I would have to think that it could have a very positive effect or a positive effect," Trump said near the end of the press conference. "I think it’s, to me, very, very exciting."

On Monday, Banner Health, which operates 28 hospitals across several states, was forced to issue a warning "that chloroquine, a malaria medication, should not be ingested to treat or prevent this virus." Why? 

A man has died and his wife is under critical care after the couple, both in their 60s, ingested chloroquine phosphate, an additive commonly used at aquariums to clean fish tanks. Within thirty minutes of ingestion, the couple experienced immediate effects requiring admittance to a nearby Banner Health hospital. 

Health officials in Nigeria "reported two cases of chloroquine poisoning." 

After the death was reported, Trump returned to the podium on Monday night and repeated his claims about chloroquine. He said that the drug, in combination with others, is "looking very very good." He said it would be distributed to "a lot of people in New York" tomorrow morning. He then delivered a rambling story about how chloroquine could take care of COVID-19 in a matter of hours.

There was a gentleman they thought was not going to make it. He said goodbye to his family. They had given him the drug just a little while before but he thought it was over. His family thought he was going to die. And a number of hours later he woke up. Felt good. Then he woke up again and felt really good. He's in good shape. He's very happy for this particular drug that we got approved in record-setting time. 

The media should reconsider airing Trump's press conferences live. Mass distribution of misinformation during a pandemic has consequences. 

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