Workers at massive corporations across America are walking off their jobs today.
Since lockdown measures came into place from the beginning of March, delivery workers, warehouse workers, supermarket workers and many others have been on the front lines of the pandemic, distributing and processing orders. But many of the people employed by massive companies believe that they haven’t been receiving sufficient protection from their employers.
Vice reported that workers at Amazon, Whole Foods, Instacart, Walmart, Target and Shipt will be walking off the job on 1 May in order to protest their working conditions. Many pointed out that while they’re classified as essential workers, they aren’t treated as such and there have been cases of these workers dying after they contracted Covid-19 and kept working. A flyer with the details was circulating on social media.
May Day is also often International Workers' Day, a holiday which marks the Haymarket Massacre, a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration on 4 May 1886 in Chicago.
These workers have organised the walkout over video conferencing tools, and settled on a handful of key demands.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Personal protective equipment has been crucial in keeping workers safe – but many essential workers have not been able to access any.
In March, Instacart workers walked out because they didn’t have protective equipment or access to hand sanitiser – a few days later, the company said that they would be providing this. But Vanessa Bain, one of the lead organisers of the walkout, told Motherboard that the protective gear they were offered after was a “joke”.
Workers are also demanding cleaning equipment.
Workers are demanding a higher hourly rate for their work, as they’re taking on risks to keep working, particularly as many of these jobs require workers to be in contact with dozens of people every day.
Instacart workers have been asking for $5 hourly pay, as have Shipt (Target delivery app) workers.
None of these workers have their healthcare covered by the companies that they work for – the majority of them are gig employees or workers and so don’t have a healthcare plan through employment.
Amazon workers also believe that Amazon has not been forthcoming about how many positive Covid-19 cases there are at its 175 warehouses around the world.
As the risks of getting Covid-19 are severe – and higher, considering that there have been positive cases and deaths in the warehouses at these companies – workers are asking for their employers to cover their healthcare costs.
Vanessa Bain also told Motherboard that doctors’ notes haven’t been accepted as a sufficient reason to take time off with Instacart.
Workers want compensation for unpaid time off that has been used since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March. As paid sick leave hasn’t been put into place at any of these companies, workers who think they are ill must choose between making money or infecting others.
Workers are worried that cases of Covid-19 aren’t being caught fast enough because there isn’t enough testing, and that the packed warehouses and working conditions could enable the virus to spread even faster.
They’re also demanding transparency about how many cases there are in the warehouses and locations that they’re expected to work in.
In March, Amazon fired Chris Smalls, a worker in their Amazon warehouse in New York, after he tried to start a union for warehouse workers at Amazon.
Smalls is one of the lead organisers of this walkout too. Many workers have pointed out that the companies they work for are making more profit than before, but that this hasn’t been reflected in the way that they treat their workers.