Chris Smalls, an assistant manager and organizer at Amazon’s Staten Island, N.Y., location was fired for voicing COVID-19 safety concerns, Vice reported on March 30. But he has friends in the struggle. Low-wage, hourly workers around the country, who are predominantly people of color and now considered essential, say they do not have the proper personal protective equipment to do their jobs safely and have started taking action, with Whole Foods Market employees across the country calling out sick on March 31, via a call-to-action Tweet posted on March 21.
We call on all Whole Foods Market employees to engage in a mass sick out on:— Whole Worker (@WholeWorkerWFM) March 21, 2020
We’ll be staging this sick out earlier than initially planned. Whole Foods employees are already getting sick. We must act NOW!https://t.co/jkA90NBJ5d pic.twitter.com/Z6ZaiZzhOm
In a press release, the Whole Worker’s National Organizing Committee wrote, “As this situation has progressed, our fundamental needs as workers have become more urgent. COVID-19 poses a very real threat to the safety of our workforce and our customers. We cannot wait for politicians, institutions, or our own management to step in to protect us.”
Shocked by Smalls’ dismissal, New York attorney general Letitia James released a statement the same day he was fired, condemning Amazon and stating that “the Office of the Attorney General is considering all legal options, and I am calling on the National Labor Relations Board to investigate this incident.”
National Public Radio (NPR) reported on March 30 that employees at Smalls’ Staten Island Amazon facility said multiple people at their warehouse have tested positive for COVID-19. Some of Instacart’s grocery deliverers walked out March 30, the Washington Post reports, in demand of better health protections and hazard pay at $5 per order.
More than a week ago, on March 23, when CNN reported that Instacart was planning to hire 300,000 workers to meet the rising demand for deliveries—workers who are treated as independent contractors—the company did not offer guaranteed paid leave and hazard pay or reinstating health care coverage for part-time and seasonal workers, as demanded by the Whole Worker’s National Organizing Committee.
Advocacy organization the Action Network launched an online campaign for citizens to pressure their governors to raise protection standards for workers like Smalls. And as the work stoppages continue, supporters have taken to social media to express their solidarity with these workers:
Amazon workers in Staten Island on strike tomorrow.— Boots Riley (@BootsRiley) March 30, 2020
Instacart, Amazon, Dominos, Trash collectors in Pittsburgh. All striking. More strikes on the way.
Is TV news covering this major development- a growing US strike wave in answer to Coronavirus crisis?https://t.co/mmTrXWVg8k
I’m supporting Instacart workers on strike today. They are providing an essential service to those who cannot leave their homes now. They deserve better pay, benefits, and protections. #InstacartStrike https://t.co/BVSA5W6SXW— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) March 30, 2020
No Instacart tomorrow. Supporting the workers who help keep our families fed.❤️✊🏾 https://t.co/a4DYBmEAUA— brittany packnett cunningham is staying inside! (@MsPackyetti) March 30, 2020
A reminder that Instacart workers are supposed to be striking today for better work conditions, so please don’t order from there today.— Camonghne Felix (@CAMONGHNE) March 30, 2020
Don’t cross the picket line! Take that long walk if you are able to do so!
Gig workers for @Instacart will walkout tomorrow March 30 for better work safety and paid sick leave.— Revolutionary Black Propaganda (@ZuluPanther) March 29, 2020
Instacart also holds it’s Shoppers tip money for more than a week. Companies like @Uber, @Lyft @Hertz are also engaged in profiteering and exploitation of their workers.#strike pic.twitter.com/0t2QLdRBlq