“Thanks for making my neighborhood so beautiful,” shouted Jim Eagleson, 69, as he walked by wearing a homemade mask.
“I don’t know what good it’s going to do,” he told his companion later. “Who knows if [Bezos] is even here.”
Activists from the Shutdown DC climate movement and Virginia immigrant rights group La ColectiVA said that they want Bezos to do more to protect workers who continue to report to warehouses and deliver goods during the novel coronavirus pandemic and that their protest seeks to amplify calls for help from Amazon workers who have staged protests nationwide. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Amazon has responded by handing out masks to warehouse workers and checking the temperatures of employees as they begin shifts. The company also increased pay for hourly workers in the country by $2 through the end of this month. But activists said independent contractors and other workers on whom the company relies are not being adequately protected.
“We urge others to compare the safety, pay and benefits measures we have taken for employees against other [companies],” said Amazon spokeswoman Lisa Levandowski. “Whether it’s temperature checks, getting masks to all employees and partners, to gloves, procuring necessary cleaning supplies, to moving fast to shift social distancing in our sites, we have aggressively worked to ensure the safety of our teams.”
Amazon projections estimate the company will spend more than $800 million in the first half of this year on safety measures meant to protect employees from the spread of covid-19 through the purchase of protective equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, thermometers, disinfectant and more.
There was no activity Wednesday at the D.C. mansion — a sprawling property in the upscale Kalorama neighborhood that formerly housed a textile museum — as the protesters worked, its many windows drawn shut.
D.C. police cruisers blocked off S Street NW to allow the painting to continue. Officers standing watch said they were there to ensure the group was adhering to social distancing guidelines that outlaw gatherings of more than 10 people.
For those asking about social distancing: the police are watching to make sure they’re spaced out and there are no more than 10 people here. Nine are working on the mural right now. They’re all wearing masks and gloves, but occassionally they do stray closer than 6 feet apart.— Marissa J. Lang (@Marissa_Jae) April 29, 2020
“We’re calling him and Amazon out for leaving their workers out here without the proper” personal protective equipment, said Laura Beth Pelner, 35, who designed the mural. “We’re calling all these essential workers heroes — grocery store workers and delivery drivers and everyone working at these Amazon warehouses filling people’s orders — but corporations aren’t doing enough to protect them. Essential workers are not expendable.”
As the paint dried on the street, protesters in masks and bandannas gathered for a photo, paintbrushes raised high in the air.
“Protect Amazon workers!” the group chanted.
Pelner said the paint should last until the next rainstorm, at which point she expected it would be washed away. But the end came sooner than that.
Less than two hours after the demonstrators cleared out, a masked worker arrived with a hose.
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And just like that, the mural in front of @jeffbezos’ house is being washed away... see previous post for more information. Images: @katie.realtor_ • • • • • #dc #washingtondc #districtofcolumbia #maryland #virginia #dmv #washingtonianproblems #chocolatecity #wmata #washingtonpost #dcist #smithsonian #nationalmall #potomacriver #adamsmorgan #capitolhill #ustreet #hstreet #georgetowndc #dupontcircle #gwu #202 #dcnative #howarduniversity #unionmarket #metro #anacostia #Americanuniversity #corona #amazon