Avoid using Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, Walmart, Target and FedEx tomorrow, as their workers are planning a walk-off to protest their employers’ unprecedented profits, which are coming at the cost of employees’ health and safety. On Friday, May 1, employees will either call in sick or walk off the job during their lunch break.
U.S. has weak labor protections
As we’ve reported before, when it comes to labor protections, the U.S. ranks at the bottom of developed countries. This includes unemployment benefits, workplace protections, as well as weakened collective bargaining powers.
When it comes to staying safe, and weathering job losses, workers don’t have a lot of options, a fact that has become especially stark these past few months, especially given the Department of Labor’s recently issued announcement that employees who refuse to work out of a general sense of fear are ineligible for pandemic unemployment assistance.
For a lot of the workers who are preparing to walk off the job, their demands have been simple: personal protective gear, health care benefits, paid leave, and hazard pay.
Demands for safer conditions still unanswered
Workers’ demands have, to a large extent, gone unanswered. For example, although Instacart supposedly offers paid sick leave to workers who get sick with COVID-19, accessing it is almost impossible, as they don’t accept doctor’s notes.
These issues aren’t unique to a single company or industry, a fact that the organizers of this latest effort acknowledge.
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In addition to dealing with hazardous working conditions and inadequate pay, workers are also watching their employers get richer off their hard work. Jeff Bezos’ net worth has increased by an estimated $25 billion since the start of this pandemic, all while his workers have reported inadequate pay and hazardous working conditions. Bezos is not an outlier—since the start of the pandemic, the billionaire class has added $308 billion to their net worth, at the same time unemployment claims have topped 26 million in the past five weeks.
Responses from companies involved
“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 during this unprecedented health and economic crisis. 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 to support their communities. What’s true is that masks, temperature checks, hand sanitizer, increased time off, increased pay, and more are standard across our Amazon and Whole Food Market networks already. Our employees are doing incredible work for their communities every day, and we have invested heavily in their health and safety through increased safety measures and the procurement of millions of safety supplies and have invested nearly $700 million in increased pay. Working globally with our teams and third parties we have gone to extreme measures to understand and address this pandemic with more than 150 process changes to-date. We spend every day focused on what else Amazon can do to keep our people and communities safe and healthy.”
“This effort seems almost entirely focused on other companies within the service and retail industries. We are not aware of any planned involvement by FedEx team members.”
“We remain singularly focused on the health and safety of the Instacart community. Our team has been diligently working to offer new policies, guidelines, product features, resources, increased bonuses, and personal protective equipment to ensure the health and safety of shoppers during this critical time. We welcome all feedback from shoppers and we will continue to enhance their experience to ensure this important community is supported.”
“We’re aware of less than 10 team members who chose to participate in today’s activities. The vast majority of our more than 340,000 frontline team members have expressed pride in the role they are playing in providing an essential service in our stores across the country, and we applaud them for their efforts.In recognition of the significant contributions of our frontline team members amid the coronavirus, we’ve made an investment of more than $300 million, including $2 an hour higher hourly wages, which we’ve extended until May 30. We’re also paying out bonuses to the 20,000 team leads who manage individual departments in our stores. This is in addition to the dozens of new measures we’ve introduced to keep our frontline team members healthy and create a safe environment for families across the U.S. to shop for the essentials they need.”
04:38 PM, 05/01/2020
This story was updated to include respons
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