Sean Penn Addresses Staffers After Online Criticism About Working at COVID-19 Vaccine Site Surfaces

The actor wrote a memo to CORE staff across the country that was leaked to the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday

sean penn
Sean Penn. Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty

Sean Penn is addressing the staff members of his nonprofit after online criticisms directed at the working conditions of its COVID-19 vaccination sites.

The actor, 60, slammed two anonymous writers who criticized the alleged working conditions of his nonprofit Community Organized Relief Effort (CORE)'s testing and now vaccination site at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in a leaked memo to the staff members across the country that was obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

One of the unnamed critics, who described themselves as a "CORE staff" member, according to L.A. Times, left comments on a Jan. 28 New York Times story claiming staff worked 18-hour workdays "without the opportunity to take breaks."

A second commenter critiqued the food offerings cited in the New York Times, alleging staffers aren't offered Subway for lunch but "the same old lettuce wraps every day."

Penn slammed the commenters saying their allegations were "shameful entries" and "obscene critiques."

"It's called quitting," he wrote. "Quit for CORE. Quit for your colleagues who won't quit. Quit for your fellow human beings who deeply recognize that this is a moment in time. A moment of service that we must all embody sometimes to the point of collapse."

"And to whoever authored these, understand that in every cell of my body is a vitriol for the way your actions reflect so harmful upon your brothers and sisters in arms," Penn added. "I have taken counsel and here will refrain from using the words with which I would otherwise choose to describe the character of your actions."

CORE was co-founded by Penn as a response relief organization in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti.

Since then, the organization has focused on providing aid to states and countries in need of it such as North Carolina, Florida and Puerto Rico to name a few.

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In March, CORE began providing COVID-19 testing across the U.S., beginning with Dodger Stadium where 350 staff members are currently working.

CORE staff members are paid hourly and work in eight-hour shifts, Penn's rep, Mara Buxbaum tells PEOPLE. Penn does not take a salary from the nonprofit.

As for the other complaints raised by the commenters, she said the actor's "memo to the staff speaks for itself."

In late January, the organization began providing COVID-19 vaccination and has vaccinated over 7,000 people a day. So far, CORE has vaccinated over 170,000 people, according to Buxbaum. Penn received his vaccination in January, tweeting, "I'm a lucky man."

CORE has also tested over five million people for the virus with 47 testing sites across the country including the Navajo Nation, Georgia, New Orleans, Washington, D.C. and North Carolina.

Penn added in his memo that CORE "does everything in its power" to comply with workplace safety regulations but that the task of testing and vaccinating as many people as possible may need staffers to "push that envelope," via the L.A. Times.

The Oscar-winner also praised staff members telling them, "You rose up. You did. Not me. All of you. And I will admit something. It made me weep. Not with some stupid self-presumed sense of fatherly pride, but simply a human pride in experiencing that people like you exist."

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