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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

AG Becerra Petitions Court to Order Amazon to Comply With Subpoenas

Becerra may be conducting a ‘last hurrah’ before his confirmation hearings as the Housing and Urban Development Secretary

By Evan Symon, December 15, 2020 2:24 am

On Monday, outgoing California Attorney General Xavier Becerra petitioned the Sacramento County Superior Court to order Amazon to comply with subpoenas over how the company has protected it’s workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Becerra’s petition says that Amazon has not given out adequate information to their investigative requests, most notably over the company’s COVID-19 health protocols, the number of COVID-19 cases stemming from their facilities, as well as policies over COVID-19 adjacent issues such as sick leave policy. The subpoenas, issued in August, still have not garnered an official response from Amazon.

“Amazon has delayed responding adequately to our investigative requests long enough,” explained Becerra in his petition to the court on Monday. “We’re investigating because we got reports, information, complaints about conditions, incidents. We believe that it merits looking into Amazon’s protocols, practices, based on information that we have received.

“We urgently need to know about complaints made by Amazon associates to the company about working conditions, potential retaliation taken against employees who raise these workplace safety concerns. We don’t have time to drag our feet. Our state finds itself in the thick of this pandemic.”

Becerra also noted that Amazon will make $100 billion this year alone due to an increased need of home ordering and is built on workers risking their health to do this, but has not complied with what the state wants yet.

“While Amazon continues to operate profitably, it has been less than forthcoming about its operations and its practices to protect its workers,” the Attorney General said. “It’s revenues soared while its profits tripled compared to 2019.”

Amazon puzzled at Becerra’s court petition

However, Amazon has responded that it has been following  state law and has been cooperating with Becerra’s office since the the subpoena’s were fist introduced in August. The company said  that on-site testing, mandatory PPE, and social distancing are all the norms at it’s locations. Amazon has even released figures into how many employees have contracted COVID-19, reaching to about 20,000 in October.

“We’re puzzled by the attorney general’s sudden rush to court,” Amazon spokeswoman Jodi Seth said on Monday. “Their claims of noncompliance with their demands don’t line up with the facts.”

Amazon has also released statements to some news outlets, explaining that they have been a  “leader in providing COVID-19 safety measures for our employees — we’ve invested billions of dollars in equipment and technology, including building on-site testing for employees and providing personal protective equipment. We encourage anyone to compare our speed and actions in this area to any other major employer.”

Some experts have noted that Becerra may be conducting a “last hurrah” before his confirmation hearings as the Housing and Urban Development Secretary next month in Washington.

“You see this sort of thing happen all the time,” explained Oakland-based legal adviser David Tan.” An outgoing lawmaker, due to retirement, being elevated, or something, wants to leave their mark and does something big to end it. Presidents do it with pardons. Biden, when he left as a Senator in 2009, furiously worked to get a bunch of personal bills passed. You even see this locally. That apartment smoking ban they just passed in [San Francisco]? An outgoing supervisor wanted it passed as one of his last major bills.”

“This is Becerra’s. He’s fought the Trump administration left and right, but COVID-19 is important to him, as are Latino-causes, so he is doing this for them. Even though Amazon is working well enough with them.”

Other Californian entities, such as Cal-OSHA and the San Francisco Department of Public Health, are also currently investigating Amazon over COVID-19 worker complaints.

Becerra’s petition is expected to be heard soon in court.

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