Workers at the Amazon MDW2 facility in Joliet contacted the Warehouse Workers for Justice of Joliet last week, alleging its black employees were the target of racial death threats and workplace intimidation, the group’s executive director said. .
Marcos Ceniceros, executive director of Warehouse Workers for Justice, said threats including racial slurs were scrawled on the walls of the facility’s women’s restroom on May 24 and then shared on Facebook on May 25.
“It is very alarming, especially because of what has happened across the country in recent weeks,” Ceniceros said.
Amazon did not respond to an email sent via its corporate website by The Herald-News on Sunday.
Ceniceros said Amazon is offering voluntary unpaid leave to any workers who don’t feel comfortable entering the facility. That’s not helpful for workers who live paycheck to paycheck, Ceniceros said.
Then, on May 26, workers were told at a meeting that an anonymous caller from the facility had called for violence against black workers, Ceniceros said.
Workers said Amazon called the phone call a threatening “copycat” and again offered voluntary leave, Ceniceros said. About 30 workers “left” as a result of that threat, Ceniceros said.
“It’s a tough decision to go to work when there’s an active threat or to take an unpaid day off,” Ceniceros said.
Ceniceros also criticized Amazon’s communication with its local employees and said one employee wore a bulletproof vest under his uniform.
Ceniceros said a worker reported the threats to the police and was told the police already had a report, but the workers could add to it.
Joliet Police Department spokesman Sgt. Dwayne English said police received a call from Amazon at 1:44 a.m. on May 25 about comments written on a bathroom wall that were “deemed to be racist.”
English said police responded to the call and made a “suspicious incident” report. Amazon representatives were unable to provide any suspect or witness information, English said.
Ceniceros said swastikas and anti-Semitic hate speech appeared on the walls of the same establishment several weeks ago.
“It’s up to employers to make sure no one ever has to wonder if they’ll make it home alive from their shift.” Ceniceros said in a statement. “Amazon has shown time and time again that it is willing to put profits before people. In light of the recent horrific attacks on communities of color, it is more important than ever for Amazon and major employers to take a stand and vigorously defend the safety of their workers and workplaces.
Ceniceros said Warehouse Workers for Justice continues to speak to workers with first-hand knowledge of the threat.
Andrew Herrera, spokesperson for Warehouse Workers for Justice, said workers had a “heightened sense of anxiety” and needed Amazon to reassure them.
“That’s why it’s even more important for the company to reassure their work and issue an official communication to keep people up to date so people know what the risk to their safety is,” Herrera said.