Between 5:30 and 5:45 this morning, shortly before workers were to end a 12-hour overnight shift at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse on Staten Island, a worker went rogue, took a metal pole and three fire extinguishers from the building and began spraying other workers. According to a spokeswoman for the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, police weren’t called until around 6:05 a.m.
Workers were told to stay at their stations and keep working. They weren’t evacuated until 6:14 a.m., one minute before their shift ended at 6:15. At least 10 were injured, but two workers accepted medical attention and were sent to Richmond University Medical Center in ambulances, according to the FDNY. Around 2,000 incoming workers were told to wait outside the building until around 9:30 a.m., when they were told they could go home with pay. The night shift that experienced the incident will have to return today at 5:45 p.m. Represented by the Amazon Labor Union, JFK8 is the only unionized Amazon warehouse in the country.
A member of the union who would like to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal was working when the events occurred. “I’m thinking, ‘Everyone’s evacuating.’ Cause he’s right upstairs in the stairway that leads to the main area.”
But she was wrong. “After that, they kept us in the building. If this man had a gun, we would have been target practice cause they just had us stay there,” she told The Indypendent. “They never announced it. Workers only found out if you had contact with him or by word of mouth. The person I was working with got chased by him. He was chasing me; I had to run from him.”
Here is her full account.
“When he came to the third floor where we were and he was spraying people, that’s when the people from my team, the men, looked like they were going to jump him because there were no other safety precautions being taken. But there was so much spray everywhere that he kind of disappeared and then he proceeded to go the other way and attack people elsewhere.
“Nobody knew what was going on until they were with him or heard someone was attacked. They kept telling us it was a fire-safety alert. That’s what they’re saying for 20 minutes over the speaker. I’m thinking someone pulled the fire alarm because we have a lot of new associates. I’m not thinking there’s a lunatic running around shooting people with a fire extinguisher. When I got upstairs, I didn’t believe it cause they never announced it one time. They never announced it over the loudspeaker. Then when we finally get outside, the police and management start yelling at us to go home for our safety, and everyone’s saying, ‘What do you mean for our own safety, you didn’t let us out during our shift?!’
“We did a fire drill not long ago and when this did happen they did not take any of the protocols. When the fire alarm goes we are supposed to hear an announcement to exit the building; our managers should be outside at check points making sure everyone is outside. I didn’t even know where management was until the end when they were sneaking out of the building in shame with their heads down. During the fire drills they let us use emergency exits to leave but during this event we used the turn stile. You have to scan to get out and you can only get out one at a time. Imagine thousands of people trying to get out one at a time and the man is still on the loose — theres no police, you’ve got blind workers, handicapped workers, being escorted out by other workers.
“A lot of people were extremely upset. Specifically everyone was upset that they didn’t know what was going on. That they were finding out by word of mouth, and being kept there. When people first heard the fire alarm, we were ready to leave — then we heard over the loudspeaker that they’re ‘still investigating’ and to ‘stay at your station.’ What is there to investigate? There is a crazy man walking around attacking random people. You know what happened with the Tornado [in Evansville, Illinois] when [Amazon] told them not to leave and six workers died? That’s what I was thinking of. My life is worth more than your money. If there’s an emergency situation, we need to be evacuated.
“I wish that they woulda said — even if they don’t wanna cause panic and say exactly what happened — said that ‘there’s an emergency situation. Everyone please evacuate as soon as possible.’ They didn’t say that. They’re locked in an office somewhere making announcements while we’re sitting here and we don’t know what’s going on again. And the only people with a door to protect them is management. They can lock themselves in. We don’t have an office! I don’t have a desk to hide behind.
A lot of us are single parents. If something happens to us, Amazon are you gonna take care of our kids? So, therefore, do not put my life in danger!”