Amazon and Instacart workers walked off their jobs Monday, saying that they are not being provided with adequate protection against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
While the actual details may differ between companies, the crux of the matter is that employees believe that much more can be done to ensure their protection but such measures are not being taken.
Coronavirus concerns at Amazon
A number of Amazon workers at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, walked off their jobs Monday after 10 workers at the warehouse reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.
Employees at the warehouse believe Amazon should temporarily shut down the warehouse and conduct an extensive cleaning. In addition, they said Amazon is not providing the items necessary for their protection, and that they were also being required to work in an unsafe manner.
Amazon employee Terrell Worm told NPR, “I touch over 2,000 different items every day I work there. I have to grab products out of the shelf and put them in the bins. … And I’m not wearing any protection. Amazon says we’re all a family there. If they really saw us as family, they’d care about keeping us safe and keeping us home.”
Another employee, Rina Cummings, added “We are working long, crowded shifts in the epicenter of a global pandemic, and Amazon has failed to provide us with the most basic safeguards to protect us, our families, and the public’s health.”
Amazon said it increased pay by US$2.00 an hour and is offering unlimited unpaid leave for employees who do not feel comfortable working in the warehouses during the coronavirus outbreak.
The company also insisted that it is “tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available … and in Staten Island we are now temperature checking everyone entering the facility.”
However, some employees said that they cannot afford to remain at home with unpaid leaves. It should be noted that Amazon has very stringent criteria for workers’ productivity. As such, taking up the offer of unpaid time could be seen as getting the pink slip down the road.
Instacart workers stage walkout
Workers at Instacart, the grocery shopping and delivery service, also staged a walkout on Monday.
Workers are reportedly asking the company to add a $5.00 hazard pay bonus to every order and that free hand sanitizers, wipes, and other supplies be provided by Instacart.
Instacart workers were also asking that the Instacart app automatically select a 10% tip, instead of the usual 5%.
Instacart is currently offering 14 days of paid leave for workers who contract coronavirus and said it will begin shipping hand sanitizer sprays that workers can order for free from a website.
Workers at Amazon, Instacart, and other grocery companies, such as Whole Foods, are planning on continuing to agitate for greater protection and compensation.
It should be pointed out that not all workers are on board with the protests. As businesses continue to close due to the coronavirus outbreak, many people are happy to find some form of employment.
The reality is that Amazon and grocery delivery services are on a hiring spree. Instacart said it plans on hiring an additional 300,000 workers while Amazon is looking to add 100,000.
Demand for grocery delivery has skyrocketed due to people being forced to stay at home across the US due to COVID-19.
Images courtesy of Flickr/Tony Webster.