Americans are staying home during the coronavirus crisis, but what about delivery drivers and workers in warehouses and grocery stores on the frontline? These workers are considered essential for getting food to the country but they’re reaching their limit with plans to strike in the hopes of improving working conditions — and their own chances for survival.
For them, physical distancing isn’t always followed and cleaning supplies are not always available, USA Today reported.
Paid sick leave, hazard pay and improved safety measures are some of the things workers are demanding. At an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, workers planned to walk out during lunch today.
A worker carried a sign Monday at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse, that read, “Money Come & Go but health is Irreplaceable #shut down Amazon.”
Up to 150,000 workers for grocery delivery service Instacart planned a nationwide strike Monday and Whole Foods employees have planned a “sick out” on Tuesday. Demands at Whole Foods include double pay because of the hazards of working during the pandemic.
“They are putting us directly in harm’s way while profiting greatly,” Instacart workers wrote in a Medium post. In a letter signed “Instacart Shoppers and Gig Workers Collective,” workers said they demand the following:
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Instacart responded, but it wasn’t enough to stop the strike, workers wrote. “We had been asking for hand sanitizer for many, many weeks. But apparently the company is capable of sourcing some with 2 days of work? Where was this before? Where were these efforts back when Shoppers first began asking for it? It’s abhorrent that it took this long for them to act.”
The strike is still on.
Amazon, one of the most valuable companies in the world, has seen a surge of orders like every day is Black Friday or Prime Day. The company said it plans to fill 100,000 new full- and part-time jobs in the U.S. to help keep up with demand and offer $2-per-hour raises through April. But Amazon warehouse workers say they’re not being protected as the virus spreads, Slate reported.
Amazon has a $946 billion market cap. The company’s stock has been flat over the past 30 days but it has become the “go-to” shop since coronavirus started spreading. It is also one of the largest video streaming providers — good for people stuck indoors. And it is the largest cloud computing company in the world.
Up to seven people tested positive at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse, walkout leader Christian Smalls told CNN. The virus has spread to at least 17 warehouses in the U.S., according to Reuters.
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Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos — net worth: $119 billion — praised the Amazon workforce in a March 21 statement, saying “much of the essential work we do cannot be done from home. We’ve implemented a series of preventative health measures for employees and contractors at our sites around the world – everything from increasing the frequency and intensity of cleaning to adjusting our practices in fulfillment centers to ensure the recommended social distancing guidelines.”
Whole Foods, which Amazon bought in June 2017 for $13.7 billion, said it temporarily relaxed its strict attendance policy, “which means that team members can participate in this act of protest without reprisal,” according to the event’s promotional flier.
The Whole Foods planned sickout follows efforts by 15 attorneys general to secure improved protection for workers including paid sick leave. They wrote a letter to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and Whole Foods CEO John Mackey.