- Connecticut lawmakers and state building trades organizations are calling Amazon out for what they allege to be questionable and even dangerous business practices on the part of a steel contractor hired to work on a new distribution center the company is building in Windsor, Connecticut.
- State Senator Julie Kushner in a statement charged Amazon with allowing contractor A&D Welding, headquartered in Georgia, to bring workers from COVID-19 restricted-travel states into Connecticut, paying them low wages and not covering them with workers' compensation, which, according to Kushner, earned A&D Welding its third stop work order in four years from the Connecticut Department of Labor.
- An Amazon spokesperson told Construction Dive that the safety of employees, contractors and partners is the internet retailing giant's top priority. On the Connecticut project, Amazon requires general contractor RC Anderson and all subcontractors "to comply with applicable COVID-19 regulations, including the [state's] executive order, which allows workers supporting the construction of critical infrastructure to continue work," the spokesperson said.
A source familiar with Amazon's Windsor project told Construction Dive that the subcontractors and vendors working on the project were solicited through an open-bid process that was available to any qualified company that showed interest. That group of bidders included nonunion and union, local, regional and national contractors with experience and expertise on projects like the one being built in Connecticut. More than 75% of the project's workforce, according to the same source, is local.
A major point of contention with Kushner and others criticizing Amazon's and Anderson's hiring practices is that the Windsor Town Council gave Amazon an almost $9 million property tax abatement in return for building the distribution center but did not tie the incentive to local hiring goals or worker protections.
Multiple unions are complaining. Joseph Toner, president of the Great Hartford-New Britain Building & Construction Trades Council, said when companies like A&D pay low wages and don't provide basic protections like workers' compensation, they are also able to submit lower bids, which local contractors — the ones that pay higher wages, benefits and follow state licensing and workers' comp regulations — can't beat.
Toner also said that when workers are not protected by workers' compensation and they get hurt or fall ill and require hospitalization or treatment they can't afford, Connecticut taxpayers could be left holding the bill.
Worker welfare under these circumstances, Toner said, is also concerning. "The workers are being exploited," he said, "and nobody wants that."
Kushner was joined by State Rep. Robyn Porter and a coalition of Connecticut labor and building trades officials. Kushner and Porter are the co-chairs of the legislature's Labor and Public Employees Committee.
Two steelworkers, employees of a Louisiana-based sub-subcontractor, died while working on an Amazon fulfillment center project in Virginia earlier this month. The two were reportedly in lifts and fastening large steel columns when a portion of the structure collapsed. The incident is still under investigation by local police and the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Administration.