Workers from major companies including Amazon, FedEx, Walmart, and others are planning to walk out on Friday over a lack of health and safety standards. They’re also demanding hazard pay for having to work during the coronavirus lockdown.
The Intercept reported Tuesday that the walkout was planned because while the employers are making record profits, the employees do not feel safe or protected. The outlet reported that a press release from the organizers said employees would call out sick or simply walk off the job during their lunch break. Rank-and-file union members are expected to join the walkout in some places as well.
“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.
Indiana Amazon employee Jana Jumpp told the outlet that she and a small team of coworkers have compiled a tally of Amazon workers who have contracted the coronavirus. She said they found 500 cases across 125 facilities, but suggested the number is higher, since the 500 cases were the only ones they were able to directly confirm through internal company communications and on Facebook.
Amazon refused to confirm or deny the numbers tallied by Jumpp and her team.
“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,” Amazon spokesperson Rachael Lighty told the outlet. “We have gone to extreme measures to understand and address this pandemic.”
The walkout follows a strike organized for Amazon employees late last month. Christian Smalls, now a former Amazon employee, organized the strike and was later fired for ignoring “multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines,” according to the company.
“Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, further putting the teams at risk,” an Amazon spokesperson told CNBC at the time. “This is unacceptable and we have terminated his employment as a result of these multiple safety issues.”
On April 22, Smalls tweeted about the May 1 walkout and urged people to boycott the businesses where workers would strike, including Whole Foods and his former employer, Amazon.
“Protect all workers at all cost we are not expandable or replaceable enough is enough TAKE THE POWER BACK!” Smalls tweeted.
The Hill reported that the “strikes slated for Friday are one of many fronts led by union and nonunion workers amid the pandemic, as Instacart workers previously organized a strike in late March, along with several other demonstrations from Amazon and Whole Foods workers around the same time.”
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