Workers from certain Amazon fulfilment centers as well as some from the grocery delivery service Instacart walked off the job today in protest of the lack of protections being offered to them by their employers. Whole Foods employees from stores across the country are also planning a “sick-out” tomorrow, calling in sick in mass numbers.
The demands being made here are basic services for people being asked to keep working through a health pandemic. Employees from all three companies want paid sick leave and hazard pay. Amazon employees want their warehouses to be properly cleaned with guaranteed pay–an especially reasonable request given that workers have tested positive for COVID-19 in at least 11 fulfilment centers across the country. Instacart shoppers, who brave the grocery stores so you don’t have to, want hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes provided.
Basically, they all want to be treated like human beings and that’s simply not happening. Some of the stories being shared from employees within these companies are truly shameful.
Take this account from a report from Vice:
One Whole Foods worker in New England who wished to remain anonymous told Motherboard that her doctor asked her to quarantine for two weeks after she experienced coronavirus symptoms, but Whole Foods has refused to accept her doctor’s note or provide her with sick leave because her symptoms were not severe enough for her to get tested and she did not travel to an area with a coronavirus outbreak.
“My doctor asked me to quarantine for two weeks and I haven’t been able to get paid time off,” the worker said. “Whole Foods said we wouldn’t get it unless we got a positive test. There are a lot of people in my situation who aren’t receiving time off. It’s hard to imagine that those who couldn’t afford to do so would stay home. Whole Foods says if you’re feeling better, you should come to work.”
What makes the lack of care extended to these workers all the more infuriating is that at a time when so many businesses and even entire industries are at risk of total financial ruin, all three of these companies are doing just great. They’re all considered “essential” business and their CEOs and stockholders are thriving. Meanwhile, the employees–you know, the ones without whom everything would grind to a halt–aren’t being respected as essential at all.
When this is over, remember who got you through it: the grocery store workers, the shoppers, the food pickers, the delivery drivers, the warehouse workers…and recall that these ppl struggle everyday to survive in a non-emergency context b/c we don’t value them or their work.
— Veena Dubal (@veenadubal) March 28, 2020
Just heard a food distributor on NPR talk about feeling like he wasn’t contributing much to society before COVID and how much he now feels like his work matters in this crisis. Such a sweet sentiment and really sobering way of looking at how we undervalue the labor of so many.
— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) March 24, 2020
Boy, all that “unskilled labor” became “essential” real fast
— Working People (@WorkingPod) March 22, 2020
By the way, earlier this month, Whole Foods’ CEO, John Mackey, did announce that employees who tested positive for COVID-19 would get two weeks paid sick leave. He ALSO asked employees who were not ill to “donate” their sick days to their coworkers. Mackey has an estimated net worth of more than $75 million.
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon (which also owns Whole Foods!), is literally the richest person in the entire world with just shy of $120 billion. Amazon was also soliciting donations from the non-billionaire public to help provide assistance to pay for their workers’ sick leave.
I’m just gonna leave this here …
— El infame Sergacabra (@NostromoSerg) March 25, 2020
(image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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