CHICAGO (CBS) — Normally, we do not participate in satellite media tours, when a company provides a spokesperson for TV stations across the country to interview.
Amazon offered us a chance to learn about what it is doing to keep workers safe in the wake of employee deaths and concerns here and across the world. We were interested, but only if we could ask whatever we wanted.
Amazon agreed, and CBS 2’s Lauren Victory asked the tough questions.
Victory: “My first question is how many positive cases have you had at Amazon?”
Rena Lunak: “Like most global companies, we’ve had employees affected by this.”
Lunak is Amazon’s chosen spokeswoman. She talked to us from insider one of the online retailer’s facilities – clearly prepared to field our COVID-19 questions, but not fully answering them.
Lunak “We alert employees every time there is a confirmed case.”
Victory: “Are you able to say if it’s in the hundreds, the thousands?”
Lunak: “I don’t have the numbers.”
The number she did have was $800 million. That is how much Amazon has already racked up in hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, and more for employees.
The company said another $3.2 billion will be spent on COVID-19 safety adjustments by June.
Amazon employees began raising coronavirus concerns in March, so we had to ask.
Victory: “Why did it take more than two months to come out with this exhaustive list?”
Lunak: “We made 150 safety changes very early on.”
She specifically pointed out mandatory masks and social distancing measures. Those are pretty typical changes across every industry right now.
One of the bigger investments is thermal cameras.
Lunak: “If you have an elevated temperature, you have to go to a secondary screening and you’re not even allowed in the building.”
Victory “Are those measures at every single facility right now?”
Lunak: “They are.”
So that includes Amazon in Joliet, where an employee shared concerns with CBS 2 about temporary workers brought in to keep up with demand coming from customers stuck at home.
Lunak had an economic update on that.
“In Chicago, specifically, we hired 6,500 associates, and 3,100 of those are going to be converted to permanent full time roles,” Lunak said.
Those jobs include benefits and two weeks paid time off if diagnosed with COVID-19.
Lunak: “We were asked to say, hey what does the inside of a building look like? And that’s what we were offering.”
Victory: “So if we asked for a tour in Joliet, it’s possible that could happen?”
Lunak: “Oh absolutely. We would love to have you.”
We have formally requested that in-person tour of a local Amazon facility. We’ll keep you posted if Amazon actually lets us in.
Meanwhile, if you work for Amazon and have concerns about your safety, we want to hear from you. Go to CBS 2’s Victory’s Facebook page to find her email address or to send her a direct message.