Essential workers from Amazon, Instacart and more plan to strike on May 1st

The workers are calling for more personal protective equipment, more thorough cleanings of workplaces with positive COVID-19 cases, paid leave and hazard pay.

Amazon, Whole Foods + Instacart workers strike May 1
Spencer Platt/Getty Images News

In the past, we were so used to getting almost everything delivered quickly, but the coronavirus pandemic has, of course, caused delivery delays across North America and now a looming strike threatens to complicate grocery delivery even further.

On May 1 some workers at Amazon, Instacart, Shipt, Target and possibly even Walmart plan to strike due to concerns around the safety of their workplace and their overall health.

Newsweek reports "workers from at least 20 Amazon warehouses are expected to walk off the job in the U.S. and in 60 warehouses internationally, including buildings in Germany, Canada and Spain."


What the workers want

Strike organizer Chris Smalls tells Vice's Motherboard, "We formed an alliance between a bunch of different companies because we all have one common goal which is to save the lives of workers and communities. Right now isn't the time to open up the economy. Amazon is a breeding ground [for this virus] which is spreading right now through multiple facilities."

If Smalls' name sounds familiar it's because Amazon fired Smalls last month after he organized a protest there. In a statement to Motherly at the time, an Amazon spokesperson explained he was fired not for organizing but because he came onsite after being asked to self-isolate, putting his colleagues at risk.

The bottom line is that on May 1, known annually as International Workers Day, Smalls and other retail workers will be walking off the job and asking consumers to boycott shopping for the day. The workers are calling for more personal protective equipment, more thorough cleanings of workplaces with positive COVID-19 cases, paid leave for sick workers and hazard pay for all workers providing essential services during the pandemic.

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What the companies are saying

In a statement to Motherly, an Instacart spokesperson explained: "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."

An Amazon spokesperson tells Motherly: "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."

A Target spokesperson provided the following statement to Motherly: "Since early March, we've introduced dozens of safety, social distancing and rigorous cleaning measures in our stores across the country. These include cleaning checklanes after each guest transaction and rotating the use of checklanes for deep cleaning, installing Plexiglass partitions at checklanes, actively monitoring, and when needed, metering guest traffic and implementing overhead audio messaging reminders, to name a few. With the safety of our guests and team members in mind, we continue to actively monitor the situation and make adjustments, as needed. For example, given CDC guidance on the role that masks can play in slowing the spread of the coronavirus and to keep our team and guests safe, we recently began requiring that team members wear masks or face coverings when working in our stores. While we take them seriously, the concerns raised are from a very small minority. The vast majority of our more than 340,000 frontline team members have expressed pride in the role they are playing in helping provide for families across the country during this time of need. When concerns have been brought to our attention, we've taken additional action, including increasing the frequency of overhead announcements and adding more signage."

Motherly has reached out to all the brands involved and will update this post when more information becomes available.

What parents need to know

These labor issues could delay the delivery of purchases from the larger retailers, but smaller businesses in your area may be able to help. In many communities in North America, taxi companies are pivoting to food delivery. Call your local cab companies and ask if they can pick up your click-and-collect order from a grocery store.

It's also worth calling your local independent grocery stores to see if they are delivering themselves—many smaller businesses are now offering delivery services as a way to keep customers during the pandemic. Some specialty shops, too, like small butchers, bakeries and natural food stores are willing to deliver right to customers now.

The pandemic is changing the way we shop, and workers are hoping it will change the way they work.

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