Racial death threats allegedly target Black workers at Joliet’s Amazon facility

Ceniceros: ‘Everyone deserves safe working conditions.’

Ten workers at the Amazon MDW2 facility in Joliet contacted Warehouse Workers for Justice this past week, saying its Black employees were targets of racial death threats and intimidation.

Workers at the Amazon MDW2 facility in Joliet have contacted the Joliet-based Warehouse Workers for Justice this past week, alleging its Black employees were targets of racial death threats and intimidation while at work, the group’s executive director said.

Marcos Ceniceros, executive director of Warehouse Workers for Justice, said threats that included racial slurs were scrawled on the facilitity’s women’s bathroom walls on May 24 and then shared to Facebook on May 25.

“This is very alarming, especially because of what’s been happening across the country the last couple of weeks,” Ceniceros said.

Amazon did not respond to an email sent through its corporate website from The Herald-News on Sunday.

Ceniceros said Amazon offered voluntary unpaid time off to any workers who did not feel comfortable going into the facility. That’s not helpful for workers who live paycheck-to paycheck, Ceniceros said.

Then on May 26, workers were told in a meeting that an anonymous caller to the facility had called for violence against Black workers, Ceniceros said.

Workers said Amazon called the phone call a “copycat” threat and again offered voluntary time off, Ceniceros said. About 30 workers “walked off” following that threat, Ceniceros said.

“It’s a hard decision of going to work while there’s an active threat or taking an unpaid day off,” Ceniceros said.

Ceniceros also criticized Amazon’s communication to its local workers and said one employee wore a bulletproof vest underneath his uniform.

Ceniceros said one worker reported the threats to the police and was told police already had a report but 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 that were written on a bathroom wall that were “deemed racist.”

English said police responded to the call and completed a “suspicious incident” report. Amazon representatives were unable to provide any suspect or witness information, English said.

Ceniceros said swastikas and antisemitic hate speech appeared on the walls of the same facility several weeks ago.

“It’s up to employers to make sure no-one ever has to wonder if they’ll make it home from their shift alive.” Ceniceros said in a release. “Amazon has shown time and again that it’s willing to put profits over people. In light of the recent horrific attacks against communities of color, it’s 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 is continuing to talk to workers with firsthand knowledge of the threat.

Andrew Herrera, a spokesperson for Warehouse Workers for Justice, said workers have a “heightened sense of anxiety” and need Amazon to reassure them.

“That’s why it’s even more important for the company to reassure its works and issue official communication to keep people in the loop so people can know what the risk is to their safety,” Herrera said.