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These 26 Amazon workers want the feds to investigate racist death threats

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One former employee says she was fired after speaking out

Amazon reportedly told workers they could take unpaid time off if they felt uncomfortable coming into work.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Over two dozen Amazon workers claim the company didn’t respond appropriately to racist death threats against Black workers at its MDW2 facility in Joliet, Illinois, and retaliated against an employee who spoke out, according to a report from the Chicago Tribune (via Engadget). The 26 workers have reportedly filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In late May, workers said they found messages reading “[n-word]s gonna die” and “fuck these [n-words] at MDW2” written on bathroom walls in the facility, according to the advocacy group Warehouse Workers for Justice. A day or two later, according to a report from local outlet Herald-News, employees learned that someone anonymously called the facility with threats against Black workers.

Workers say additional things also made the workplace feel hostile. According to the Tribune, workers claim that Amazon allowed employees to wear clothing decorated with the Confederate flag, which the Anti-Defamation League classifies as a hate symbol. Herald-News’ story also cites Marcos Ceniceros, executive director of Warehouse Workers for Justice, who said there had recently been graffiti of swastikas and antisemitic messages at MDW2.

Warehouse Workers for Justice says that after the threats, Amazon told employees that they could have voluntary time off if they felt uncomfortable coming into work. As Tori Davis, a former employee, points out, though, that’s not a real choice for workers who need the income. Speaking to the Tribune, she said: “We had to make a choice of do we stay and make money and be able to pay our bills on the first, or do we go home and be safe.”

Davis alleges that Amazon fired her after she threatened to take legal action if the company didn’t move to protect her and her co-workers, according to the Tribune. Richard Rocha, an Amazon spokesperson told the Tribune that the company “works hard to protect our employees from any form of discrimination and to provide an environment where employees feel safe.” However, Rocha did not respond to the outlet’s requests for comment about Davis’ accusations or why it fired her, nor has the company immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment.

Amazon isn’t the only company facing accusations that it’s failed to stop racism at some of its facilities. Tesla has faced multiple lawsuits from employees about its factory in Fremont, California, and has reportedly paid out millions in settlements relating to racial discrimination at the plant. The automaker is being investigated by the EEOC.