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U.S. Stocks Climbing Despite Uncertainty Surrounding Presidential Election

Tech-led stocks in the US began climbing when the market opened up on Wednesday morning, despite there being a lack of clarity in terms of who will win the 2020 presidential election. 

According to reports, The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased by 500 points, or 1.7%. The S&P 500 traded 2.3% higher while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite increased by 3.2%. Mike Lewis is the managing director of US equity cash trading at Barclays, and spoke with the press this morning about these surges. 

“I think that the outlook going forward for markets is this is going to be more about policy and the Fed than it’s going to be about politics, which is a good thing for markets.”

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Key swing states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania could take a while to fully determine how the votes will lean. Both candidates and their camps are confident in their paths to victory this week.

Amazon, Microsoft and Apple all saw spikes of at least 3% in their stocks while Facebook increased by 7%, and Google-parent company Alphabet jumped more than 5%. Traders on Wall Street attribute these spikes to a multitude of factors. The possibility that Republicans will maintain control of the Senate is a positive for the groups, as a Democrat congress could have weighed down on the high-growth sector, according to Barry Bannister, Stifel Head of Institutional Equity Strategy.

“It appears investors may be satisfied with at least half a Republican Senate and no tax increase, knowing they have a ‘Fed put’ if fiscal assistance is slower in coming. This favors Growth stocks over Value near-term.”

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Traders are also still grappling with the idea of a contested election, as Wall Street strategists claim that could have major consequences for the stock market. “News of a contested election could cause a sharp drop in stocks in the very short term, but we do not see it as a bearish gamechanger,” Tom Essaye, founder of the Sevens Report, said.

Traders are also watching the Senate race closely as the result of that race will have major implications on the future of the market as a whole. A Democrat win in the Senate and a Biden presidency has a lot of traders worried about the higher tax rates that would impact technology shares especially. 

On the other hand, some traders think a blue wave in the Senate and White House could lead to a larger stimulus package for Americans as we continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic; which would also boost stocks linked to the larger economy. 

“When this is all said and done, I still believe equities will move higher regardless of who wins the Oval Office. The coronavirus pandemic and U.S. monetary policy will be bigger market drivers over the long haul,” said Ryan Nauman, market strategist at Informa Financial intelligence.

Federal Judge Dismisses Amazon Warehouse Workers’ Covid-19 Lawsuit

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit in New York involving an Amazon warehouse employee who was claiming that the company was putting employee lives on the line with their mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic. The suit initially began after a slew of Amazon warehouse employees contracted the coronavirus due to a lack of proper health and safety procedures. 

The lawsuit was initially filed in June after workers accused Amazon of creating a “public nuisance by exacerbating Covid-19 risks.” These “exacerbations” took the form of a company culture that created “workplace fear” for the employees. According to the filing, workers were told to “work at dizzying speeds, even if doing so prevents them from socially distancing, washing their hands, and sanitizing their work spaces.”

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This Sunday, US District judge Brian Cogan made a ruling in Brooklyn, NY, in which he decided that the warehouse employees should have brought the issues up with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) instead. Cogan claimed that the federal agency would better be able to “strike a balance between maintaining some level of operations in conjunction with some level of protective measures.” 

Given the federal courts lack of expertise on workplace health and safety issues during a global health crisis, Cogan feared bringing the lawsuit to the courts would only create a bunch of conflicting rulings from various judges who also lack experience in this type of legal issue. 

“Court-imposed workplace policies could subject the industry to vastly different, costly regulatory schemes in a time of economic crisis.”

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The Amazon workers’ lawyers said that they were weighing an appeal of Cogan’s ruling, claiming that the judge’s redirection of the case to be further dealt with by the OSHA “should be very concerning to anyone who cares about the health of American workers, given that OSHA has been virtually AWOL throughout this crisis,” they said in a statement after the ruling was made. 

Amazon spokesperson Lisa Levandowski recently released a statement after the ruling as well, denying any wrongdoing from the company, and calling the lawsuit an “effort to exploit the pandemic.”

“Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our employees, which is why at the onset of the pandemic we moved quickly to make more than 150 COVID-19 related process changes.” 

In general, worker advocate groups all throughout the nation have filed public nuisance suits due to the lack of effort from the OSHA, meaning they’ve looked into the options with the agency but as they claimed, the organization has been relatively absent throughout the past nine months. 

Towards Justice and Public Justice are two legal non-profits that helped bring the Amazon suit to the courts initially. Additionally, the two companies are separately suing OSHA in a federal court in Pennsylvania due to their lack of efforts to address the “imminent dangers” workers everywhere continue to face.

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Well-Reviewed Speakers And Headphones That Won’t Break The Bank

As the holiday season approaches, and the world continues to endure the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s time to start thinking of gifts for our loved ones that promote staying home, but remaining entertained as we all navigate these uncertain times. Music has become one of the most healing elements for some during this year.

A proper sound system, or personal headphone system, is essential for any music lover in your life, and now that we’re living in an era where the government wants us to stay home and watch movies, there’s never been a better time to upgrade your systems; without breaking the bank either. Here are some of the newest, and most-affordable, speaker and headphones available currently:

Razer Opus Wireless Headphones: These wireless headphones are $200 which is a relatively average price for quality devices such as these currently on the market. Reviews of these headphones suggest that they’re comfortable, have great sound quality, and a long battery life. Added bonuses include a compact carrying case and ear cups on the headphones that can swivel to rest on the users chest.

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Sony WF-XB700Z Earbuds: These earbuds have been highly regarded as one of the best wireless headphones on a budget. Some sale prices have even shown the earbuds costing less than $100, and for that low price individuals get a pair of earbuds that has the ability to increase bass-levels, and latch onto your ears securely without feeling tight. For the price, users claim the sounds quality is just as good as any other higher end wireless headphone on the market.

OnePlus Buds: These earbuds are only for individuals who use a OnePlus phone. If you own an Android they’ll still work, however, reviewers claim you get the best sound quality when they’re paired with their proper counterpart. At just $79 users get a pair of earbuds that look very similar to Apple’s Airpods with just as smooth of a smooth sound quality.

Beats Flex: The new Beats Flex are only $50, a significantly cheaper version of the Beats X earbuds. Beats has long been known for their noise-cancelling crisp sounds quality, and the Flex buds are no different. They offer 12 hours of battery life, and have a remarkably comfortable fit for its low price point.

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Sonos Ikea Speakers: Shifting gears into the speaker market, Sonos and Ikea have been working on their partnership for over a year now, and finally they’re ready to offer you their widely impressive and affordable speaker systems. The Symfonisk table lamp speaker is $179, but there’s also a bookshelf size of the same speaker for just $99. You can pick them up at your local Ikea or on the furniture stores website, but they aren’t available at third-party retailers such as Best Buy.

Marshall’s Emerton Bluetooth Speaker: This speaker is $149 and uses a simple USB-C cord to charge. The controls on the device mimic that of Marshall’s recent line of headphones as well. The buttons on this speaker make it extremely easy for anyone to use as well.

Amazon Echo Dot: The line of Alexa-enabled smart speakers from Amazon have long dominated the market and for good reason. Mainly because the line is quite large and varies greatly in pricing, ranging from $49.99 to $199.99, but all contain the same amazing sound quality levels and smart-home capabilities.

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20,000 Amazon Workers In The US Have Tested Positive For Covid-19

After activists have been demanding Amazon for months to disclose information regarding Covid-19 and their workers, the company revealed this week that almost 20,000 of its workers in the US have contracted the coronavirus. Throughout this pandemic, however, Amazon as a brand has been succeeding monumentally when compared to other online retail giants. 

Amazon has faced some major criticisms within the past six months of the pandemic in general. Labor campaigners and union leaders have alleged that the company is putting their employees in danger by keeping so many warehouses open despite individuals contracting the virus who’ve worked in some of these warehouses. 

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Amazon posted on their blog an analysis that showed the rate of infection among 1.4 million American workers was 42% lower than the expected rate of infection to come from a warehouse occupation. 

A breakdown of infection rates on a state-by-state level showed that the highest rate of infection of Amazon employees was in Minnesota where 3.2% of the workers were presumed to have gotten Covid-19 at their place of business; for reference that percentage is double the rate of infection for average individuals working from home in the same area. 

Athena is a coalition of US activist groups that work to campaign for large worker groups all across the country. Most recently they’ve been using their resources to focus on Amazon, and call upon the company to be immediately investigated for how strictly they’ve been abiding by health and safety protections for their workers. Dania Rajendra is the director of Athena who recently claimed the group also wants to ensure Amazon has been regularly reporting on the number of employees with Covid-19 as they’re legally required to do so. 

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 “Amazon allowed Covid-19 to spread like wildfire in its facilities, risking the health of tens of thousands of people who work at Amazon – as well as their family members, neighbors and friends.”

Amazon currently has a market value of $1.6 trillion with its founder and chief, Jeff Bezos, owning the most shares making him the world’s wealthiest individual. Bezos has claimed multiple times that Amazon has been investing “hundreds of millions of dollars” into its own covid-19 testing program as well as tracing efforts. The plan is projected to test 50,000 individuals a day at 650 sites all across the US starting in November. However, Rajendra and the team at Athena isn’t as convinced that Bezos will stick to his word based on his already detrimental decision-making and the fact that this multi-trillion dollar company is still paying its warehouse workers little to nothing to help them cope with the pandemics effects. 

“Amazon is, in no uncertain terms, a threat to public health.” 

Within the blogpost Amazon claimed that they would be giving their employees comprehensive health insurance and paid time off for any worker who needs to be quarantined; a policy workers have been trying to get implemented for months now. The tech giant will also be implementing new cleaning regimes and other safety processes to reduce the spread of the virus, however, after dealing with this virus for over six months now, many individuals are quick to criticize Amazon for their lack of concern over employees previously, and believe these new policies are more of a way to appease the public and make up for the tens of thousands of workers that have already been impacted. 

 

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Walmart Teams Up With Microsoft In A Bid To Buy TikTok 

Walmart announced this week that they would be collaborating with Microsoft in a bid to acquire TikTok. Currently ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company which is based in Beijing, is nearing an agreement to sell its American, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand operations in a deal that’s projected to earn the company up to $30 billion. 

Walmart and Microsoft are just one team placing a bid for the app in America, as many are looking to take advantage of buying one of the most popular social media platforms in 2020. Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove recently spoke with the media, and while he denied to comment on how the two companies would be dividing their ownership of the app, he claims this acquisition would be an amazing opportunity for both companies to compete against other giant corporations such as Amazon. 

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Walmart and Amazon have been competing as major “superstore” type retailers for years now. In fact, Walmart recently announced plans to launch its own membership program similar to Amazon Prime, called Walmart+, which will also include original content. 

“We believe a potential relationship with TikTok US in partnership with Microsoft could add this key functionality and provide Walmart a way to reach and serve omnichannel customers as well as grow our third-party marketplace and advertising businesses.”

Walmart went on in their statement to also claim that they were confident in their ability to meet both the expectations of current TikTok users, and the US government; who has recently been attacking TikTok for its potential sharing of personal data with China; which has not been proven. 

In the US, TikTok currently has around 100 million active users. When compared to the amount of users the app had in 2018 there’s an 800% increase in use. Daniel Ives, managing director and technology analyst, claims that there’s a 90% chance TikTok will accept the bid from Microsoft and Walmart, and the acquisition of the app will be a major step in Walmarts constant expansion of services. 

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This will not be the first time Walmart and Microsoft work together either. In 2018, Walmart announced a five-year “cloud deal” with Microsoft, allowing the retailer to adopt Microsoft’s Azure cloud infrastructure and include bundles in certain devices that would include Office 365 with every purchase. 

After TikTok was under major threat of being banned by Donald Trump and his administration, the app knew it had to find a new buyer so that the app would remain alive in one of its most lucrative markets worldwide. The Pentagon has already banned TikTok from being downloaded on any government-issued devices due to security concerns; the US House of Representatives and Senate were also ordered to follow suit. 

Despite the many allegations from Trump himself, TikTok has went on record multiple times that they have never shared personal data with China, it’s parent company, or any other company for that matter. They then explained how TikTok is run within each country it’s available, and all US user data is stored in the US. 

There’s no real timeline as to when TikTok will accept or deny Microsoft and Walmart’s bid, however, with the 2020 election getting closer, it’s likely the app will make a decision sooner rather than later in order to keep it alive. 

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Amazon Renames Seattle NHL Stadium ‘Climate Pledge Arena’ In New Green Initiative

Amazon has officially secured the naming rights for Seattle’s downtown arena that will be the home for the city’s new NHL team as well as the WNBA’s Storm team. Amazon made the announcement this week that they would be deciding the name of the arena, however, many were shocked to learn that the company wouldn’t include its name in the title; something that’s fairly typical when it comes to naming stadium-type establishments after the corporations that sponsor them (Staples Center, Citi Field, AT&T Stadium, etc.). 

Instead, the stadium will be named Climate Pledge Arena and will feature several new green initiatives to make the future of live sports entertainment more environmentally friendly. 

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“I think this is going to be a transformative moment in our industry. Amazon said, ‘We’ll act like a naming rights partner, but let’s do this the right way. We don’t need any more branding. What we need is to go save the planet.’ It was brilliant,” a spokesperson for the arena claimed. 

As mentioned Climate Pledge Arena is going to run with the intention of remaining completely green. In fact, Amazon is attempting to make it the first arena in the world to earn a net zero carbon certifications by the International Living Future Institute.  There are a multitude of features that will be implemented into the structure, games themselves, and clean up procedures for the stadium. 

All ice for hockey games will be created using recycled rainwater thanks to a massive tank that’s located underground and adjacent to the arena. This tank is specifically designed to collect runoff rainwater from the roof of the arena, but the arena’s team is also working on a way to easily allow fans at home to bring their own recycled rainwater to help aid the running of the stadium.

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All events will also be “zero waste,” a decision that according to the team was inspired by singer Billie Eilish, who before the coronavirus pandemic was embarking on a world tour for her most recent album. Eilish asked every venue that she was planning to play on her tour to eliminate as much single-waste plastic as possible, to which they all happily obliged to get one of the biggest artists of the year to play at their establishment. 

 “I was like, I can’t believe she got an entire syndication of arenas to come along and finally address this issue. I was so in awe that she made this part of the deal. When we were debating this, I said if she could do it for a night, couldn’t we do this for 365 nights?” said Tim Leiweke, CEO of the Oak View Group. 

75% of the arena’s food vendors will be sourced seasonally by local farmers and producers as a means of helping local small businesses. Unused food that’s still edible and viable will also be donated to various food charities in the area. The arena will also solely run on electricity, and carbon emissions and sustainability performance is set up to be closely monitored and will also be made public record to all American citizens so they can see for themselves how green the arena is. 

The cost of the building overall is set to be around $900 million and will be able to hold 18,000 sports fans. Its projected to host around 200 events each year, which will also include concerts. The building is currently still under construction, as production was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s expected to make its public debut with Seattle’s brand new NHL team in 2021-2022 (the dates are subject to change based on how the pandemic progresses). 

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Amazon Employees Suing Company Over Covid-19 Negligence

A group of Amazon employees are suing the massive company, alleging that Amazon has mandated unsafe working conditions within one of their fulfillment centers which directly lead to an outbreak of Covid-19 cases among the warehouse workers, resulting in multiple employee deaths from the virus. 

“This case is about Amazon’s failures to comply with New York law and state and federal public health guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic at the JFK8 facility. The company has relied on purposeful miscommunication with workers, sloppy contact tracing, and the culture of workplace fear it has instilled at JFK to ensure it can maintain productivity while reducing costs, even if that means workers come to work sick and cannot engage in proper hygiene, sanitizing, or social distancing while at work in order to stay healthy,” according to the official legal complaint

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The JFK8 facility is located on Staten Island, and at least one worker has died due to contracting the coronavirus; several others are currently sick. Employees received word this week that new cases were still appearing at the facility. According to one of the main plaintiffs, she alleges that after contractiv Covid-19 from the warehouse she “awoke to find her cousin with whom she lived dead in their bathroom after he developed COVID-19 symptoms as well.” 

Originally the plaintiff also claims she requested paid leave for when she needed to quarantine and Amazon refused to pay it; Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, has made $24 billion during the duration of the coronavirus pandemic alone. However, aside from their back pays, employees aren’t actually seeking financial compensation for past errors in company judgement, instead, they want “an order requiring Amazon to comply with public health guidance to prevent more harm in the future.”

You may remember this specific Amazon fulfillment center for being in the news in March when they fired warehouse employee, Christian Smalls, for organizing a protest against the company’s irresponsible treatment of employees during a worldwide health crisis. Further investigation into Amazon’s handling of that firing revealed that senior leadership from Amazon specifically targeted Smalls to paint him as the face of the entire resistance movement. 

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“If possible, make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement. He’s not smart, or articulate, and to the extent the press wants to focus on us versus him, we will be in a much stronger PR position than simply explaining for the umpteenth time how we’re trying to protect workers,”  the company’s general counsel, David Zapolsky, wrote in the memo.

The Office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James began an investigation in April into the health and safety practices of all Amazon warehouses in New York. “The information so far available to us raises concerns that Amazon’s health and safety measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are so inadequate that they may violate several provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act,” James’ staff claims. 

Many individuals have been afraid to speak up due to Smalls’ unjust firing, and the several other NY employees who have been terminated for speaking up against management. An Amazon spokesperson recently emphasized how all they want from the company is to have them abide by all the rules put in place by the CDC and WHO. 

For now, the fight continues, Amazon has responded to these multiple claims by donating over $4 billion to Covid-19 related initiatives; which has given the employees even more motivation to sue, as their company has now been shelling out billions for country wide health and safety practices, but they haven’t even fixed anything in their own warehouses. 

To read the entire legal complaint, click here.

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Jeff Bezos Returns To Manage Day-To-Day Operations At Amazon During Pandemic

As one could imagine, orders for Amazon have reached some record highs during this quarantine, and as those order numbers are increasing, so is the amount of warehouse staff walkouts/strikes against the trillion-dollar company and it’s billionaire CEO.

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New Movies Being Made Available To Stream Early Due To Coronavirus Pandemic

Thanks to social distancing initiatives brought on by the recent coronavirus pandemic, many Hollywood movie studios are releasing their movies directly to streaming services for fans to watch at home during quarantine. Since movie theaters will be closed down for the indefinite future, many studios have decided to put their movies on platforms months in advance, some are so freshly out of the theater that the only option is to buy them, however, others are being directly uploaded to certain services, so here’s what’s coming soon to your living room:

1917 is a World War One drama that is famously known for its continuous “one-take” cinematic style, and now it’s available to rent on a multitude of platforms for around $6, it’s also available to buy.

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Emma is another period piece based on the Jane Austin novel of the same name. Unlike 1917, however, this movie is available to rent for an increased price of $20, which is likely due to the fact that it was in theaters more recently.

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The Hunt is a satirical take on The Most Dangerous Game starring Emma Roberts and Hilary Swank. The movie is in the horror genre and was positively received by critics for its commentary on the political divide in modern American culture. It’s available to rent for $20.

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The Invisible Man was just getting a wave of positive reviews when the coronavirus pandemic shut down movie theaters worldwide. Starring Elisabeth Moss, the remake of the classic horror story is currently available to rent for $20 as well.

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Birds Of Prey is the latest DC installment of the Suicide Squad series of movies starring Margot Robbie. A superhero movie following a cohort of super-villain independent women, Birds Of Prey was receiving high praise from critics when in theaters. Unfortunately, since it was still in theaters, as of right now you can only purchase the film for $20.

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Bloodshot was adapted from the widely-popular graphic novel, and stars Vin Diesel as an unstoppable, self-regenerating, “Super Soldier” and is currently available for purchase at $20.

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Onward is the newest Pixar Studios film. The two main characters are teenage elves voiced by beloved actors Chris Pratt and Tom Holland. The pair live an average life in elf suburbia, until one day, the call for adventure is just too loud to ignore. Onward is currently available to buy for $20.

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The Way Back stars Ben Affleck and takes on the classic story of a troubled former pro athlete who is on a path of personal/professional redemption. While on this path, he finds himself becoming the coach of a struggling high school team. The movie is currently available to buy for $20.

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Beyond just renting and buying, there are a few new movies that are also going to be uploaded onto streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime in the coming weeks. These films include The Call of the Wild, Downhill, The Lovebirds, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Trolls World Tour, and Sonic The Hedgehog. 

While it may be a while before movie fanatics have the opportunity to get back into a theater, at least they’ll have these new options to occupy themselves in the meantime. Until then, it’s important to stay home, stay clean, and keep practicing proper hygiene.

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Amazon Coping With Warehouse Coronavirus Outbreaks In Over 10 Facilities

Amazon warehouse workers are currently enduring a huge wave of coronavirus cases appearing throughout the various factory locations in the United States. According to media reports, at least 11 facilities have reported having workers who tested positive for the virus. The second that any warehouse employee has shown signs of the virus they would be sent home, however, that doesn’t discount the many other workers they could’ve come into contact with before they began exhibiting symptoms. 

So far, cases have been reported at Amazon facilities in Queens, New York, Moreno Valley, California; Jacksonville, Florida; Shepherdsville, Kentucky; Brownstown, Michigan; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Katy, Texas; and Wallingford, Connecticut. Amazon has closed some of its sites, such as the Queens warehouse, but overall the company has been trying to avoid mass closures due to the increase in demand and traffic they’ve seen now that most of its customers are in self-quarantine. 

The company told the media that it is taking “extreme measures to ensure the safety of employees at our site[s]. That includes regularly sanitizing door handles, elevator buttons, lockers and touch screens, as well as staggering shifts and spreading out chairs in break rooms.”

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Many Amazon employees, however, are still unsatisfied with Amazon’s overall response to the coronavirus pandemic, and many claim to be very nervous about getting infected. Amazon would be nothing without the hundreds of thousands of warehouse workers throughout the US that make sure all of the millions of online orders are seen through, so the company should be doing everything in their power to protect such an integral part of the way their business is run.

The additional cases will likely disrupt shipments and delay deliveries depending on the parts of the country that are losing the most employees/factories due to closures. This shouldn’t come as a shock to consumers, however, as most products on Amazon are in high demand at the moment, and have already been delayed from shipping. Essential supplies that are in the highest demand, such as toilet paper, are delayed until April, and thermometers are being delayed until May, to give a few examples. 

“Amazon is witnessing spikes in demand that are comparable to the surge surrounding peak holiday periods such as Black Friday, so in response [we’re] ramping up hiring. We’re boosting employment by 100,000 in the way that we do for seasonal periods like the holiday, when we need extra workers,” said Jay Carney, Amazon’s senior vice president of global corporate affairs.

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Amazon spokespeople have also told the media that they’re doing everything in their power to put employee safety and customer satisfaction at the forefront of concern, emphasizing that they’ve implemented multiple social distancing policies when in a corporate office environment. However, warehouse workers claim that those policies don’t apply when you’re in tight conditions and locker areas that “force employees to walk sideways to pass one another.”  

Amazon recently claimed that any employee who is forced into quarantine will receive two weeks pay, and Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos recently announced plans to donate millions of face masks and other sanitary products to all of its employees, warehouse workers, and contractors.  

“Masks remain in short supply globally and are at this point being directed by governments to the highest-need facilities like hospitals and clinics. When our turn for masks comes, our first priority will be getting them in the hands of our employees and partners working to get essential products to people,” Bezos said. 

We need to ensure that all employees rights, health, and safety are being properly put under consideration when their employers make new policies, especially during times of a global pandemic. These are uncertain and worrisome times, but we must stay strong and continue to fight for one another, the world could use some peace.