On Friday, May 1, essential workers across the US called in sick in protest of Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, Shipt and Target’s response to COVID-19. The protests took place in: Staten Island, the California Bay Area, Los Angeles, Ohio, Kentucky, New York, Chicago, and Minnesota.
Organizers were asking for an increase in pay, expanded sick leave policies, and frequent professional cleaning. They also were asking for increased hazard pay, stricter social distancing measures, and transparency from companies on the number of workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 according to BusinessInsider.com.
Many of these businesses are claiming that they have done their part in protecting their workers from the coronavirus. Shipt publicly claimed to have increased pay by 30 percent and that they provided protective gear. However, according to Wired.com, Willy Solis, organizer of that strike, said he had not received a mask from the company and the increase in pay was instead an increase in the amount of work he had to do.
Amazon claims to have expanded their sick leave policies, but this was a temporary decision and only lasted until the end of April. Amazon also says that the majority of their essential workers disagree that the company isn’t doing enough to ensure their workers’ safety, as the majority would come into work May 1st. While this may be true, according to Wired.com, a large portion of essential workers were unaware that it was happening or were in disbelief that protesting would change the companies responses.
It seems the disbelieving workers may be right, seeing as protests have not stopped or even slowed down business for companies according to Vox.com. In fact, business has only increased with the shelter-in-home orders, as many turn to online shopping and delivery so as to not risk contracting the virus from in-person stores.
That being said, the worker’s strike has caught the attention and approval of various political figures including: Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and State Attorney General Letitia James.
We have not seen any further action taken by these companies in response to the strikes, but hopefully, with these political figures backing up essential workers, there will be more pressure on them to act, and in turn, the companies will greatly improve the working conditions for essential workers.