Workers from Walmart, FedEx, Target, Instacart, Amazon, and Amazon’s Whole Foods Market plan to go on strike to protest what they say are unsafe working conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Intercept first reported Wednesday.
The members of an unprecedented coalition of employees and gig workers in at least half a dozen states plan to call in sick or walk off their jobs during their lunch breaks on Friday, International Workers’ Day, according to The Intercept.
According to The Intercept, the workers are making a variety of demands, including back pay for unpaid time off they’ve used since the beginning of March, hazard pay or paid sick leave for the remainder of the pandemic, company-provided protective equipment and cleaning supplies at all times, and increased transparency from the companies about the number of COVID-19 cases in their facilities.
The organizers say their employers, all of which have been considered essential business and remained open during the pandemic, are seeing record profits at the expense of workers’ health and safety.
“We are acting in conjunction with workers at Amazon, Target, Instacart and other companies for International Worker’s Day to show solidarity with other essential workers in our struggle for better protections and benefits in the pandemic,” Daniel Steinbrook, a Whole Foods employee and strike organizer, told The Intercept.
Christian Smalls, who was fired by Amazon after his participation in a protest over the company’s refusal to close a New York warehouse when a worker there tested positive for COVID-19, tweeted a picture of flyer advertising the strike.
“It’s time to join up! Protect all workers at all cost we are not expandable or replaceable enough is enough TAKE THE POWER BACK!” Smalls said in the tweet.https://d-21108621122973114635.ampproject.net/2004240001480/frame.html
News of the protests comes as essential workers are increasingly speaking outabout working conditions and lawmakers and labor regulators are paying closer attention to companies’ responses.
Amazon workers have organized multiple strikes in New York, Chicago, Minnesota, and Italy, as well as virtually, as colleagues have tested positive for COVID-19, calling the company’s coronavirus response inadequate and criticizing its refusal to provide information about the number of its warehouses that have seen outbreaks of the disease.
Amazon defended its warehouse conditions and safety procedures, telling Business Insider in a statement that “masks, temperature checks, hand sanitizer, increased time off, increased pay, and more are standard across our Amazon and Whole Food Market networks already.”
The company also disputed workers’ allegations about a lack of protective equipment, inadequate safety measures, and retaliation for employee activism.
“While we respect people’s right to express themselves, we object to the irresponsible actions of labor groups in spreading misinformation and making false claims about Amazon… The statements made are not supported by facts or representative of the majority of the 500,000 Amazon operations employees in the U.S. who are showing up to work,” it said.
Credit: Business Insider