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Amazon COVID-19 publicity piece airs as news on local TV stations

Examining Amazon's treatment of its workers
Examining Amazon's treatment of its workers 13:17

Facing criticism from workers and labor advocates after the deaths of eight warehouse employees from COVID-19, Amazon is pitching its workplace safety practices in a company-produced video picked up nearly verbatim by multiple local TV news stations across the U.S.

Amazon on Thursday issued a video news release on BusinessWire that included footage from its warehouses and a script for news anchors. The segment includes interviews with warehouse workers praising the company's efforts to combat COVID-19.

"I feel safe coming to work every day,"  Stanaleen Greenman, a process assistant at Amazon, said in the video.

At least 10 TV news stations around the country ran the video with few, if any, changes, according to a video compilation by local news source Courier

One broadcaster took Amazon to task over social media, tweeting that the company had sent him the video pitch offering an "inside look" at its response to COVID-19. 

Amazon said its news release was clearly identified as coming from the company and that it welcomes reporters into its buildings. The video was created "to share an inside look into the health and safety measures we've rolled out in our buildings and was intended for reporters who for a variety of reasons weren't able to come tour one of our sites themselves," a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch in an email.  

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a frequent critic of Amazon, blasted the company on Twitter, calling its video release "propaganda." He also urged it to offer sick leave to all warehouse workers, drawing a rebuke from the company.

About two dozen Amazon workers in an Amazon distribution facility in Staten Island, New York, walked off the job in late March to protest what they called the company's inadequate response in implementing measures to protect employees from the coronavirus.

Online petitions also have called on Amazon to close warehouses for cleaning after outbreaks of COVID-19 at some of the retailer's roughly 500 facilities in the U.S., including a warehouse in Hazel Township, Pennsylvania, and a fulfillment center in Eastvale, California.

Two former Amazon employees told CBS This Morning this month they'd been fired for their activism on behalf of the company's warehouse workers during the pandemic. The company has dismissed that claim, saying they were fired for violating internal policies.

Fired employees say Amazon "silenced" them 06:09

Amazon did not respond when asked how many of its workers have contracted the virus, saying only that it was "saddened by the loss of an associate" who had worked at the company's site in Randall, Ohio. 

That worker's death, on May 18, is the eighth reported fatality of an Amazon worker from COVID-19. According to the company, the rate of infection at its Randall site is "significantly below the rate of the community itself, and we see that in our quarantine rates as well."

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