Amazon and Instacart workers demand coronavirus protection, go on strike

Amazon workers in at least eleven warehouses across the United States have tested positive for COVID-19.

Amazon packages awaiting dispatch (photo credit: PASCAL ROSSIGNOL/REUTERS)
Amazon packages awaiting dispatch
Amazon employees and Instacart grocery delivery workers across the United States walked away from their responsibilities and went on strike on Monday, demanding that their organizations take further precautions to better protect employees from coronavirus.
A group of Amazon employees working at a fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, also joined the protests after a number of people in their warehouse tested positive for COVID-19, and they became unsatisfied with the company's response to the outbreak.
Amazon workers in at least eleven warehouses across the US have tested positive for COVID-19.
With demand at its peak for online grocery shopping, as many have been instructed to stay home, self-isolate and social distance themselves, Amazon is planning on adding over 100,000 warehouse workers and 300,000 delivery people to its workforce. Many Instacart workers decided to simply shut off their app for the day in a display of solidarity, concerned that the company is more interested in meeting demand than protecting workers.
Amazon and Instacart employees have both requested reforms to policies on paid sick leave. Currently, only workers at Amazon who have tested positive for the virus are put on leave and quarantined – leaving workers vulnerable to other workers who might be positive, but have not been diagnosed. Additionally, Amazon warehouse workers want their facilities to be closed for deeper cleaning, with guaranteed wages during those cleaning periods, while Instacart employees are asking for an increase in pay to compensate for the risks they face while completing their daily work responsibilities.
"Actions speak louder than words," Instacart worker Sarah Polito told National Public Radio (NPR). "You can tell us that we're these household heroes and that you appreciate us. But you're not actually; they're not showing it. They're not taking these steps to give us the precautions. They're not giving us hazard pay."
It's unclear how many people participated in the protests, but a spokesperson for Instacart said the protest had "absolutely no impact on Instacart's operations," adding they having recently employed 50,000 workers who are already delivering in the field, adding that there are approximately 250,000 more employees to come, according to NPR.
The company also added that it will distribute sanitation supplies to its employees, and that it would change the app settings to allow for larger maximum tips. Instacart workers are independent contractors employed by the company.
Earlier this month, Amazon employees working in warehouses in both Spain and Italy tested positive for COVID-19 after contracting the coronavirus.
Last week, 1,500 Amazon employees started a petition calling on the organization to take further precautions to better protect workers.
Amazon says it is following health officials' instructions regarding proper protocols for continuing operations and taking relevant precautions to protect its workers in the process.
“We are going to great lengths to keep the buildings extremely clean and help employees practice important precautions such as social distancing and other measures,” Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman said, according to The Washington Post. “Those who don’t want to come to work are welcome to use paid and unpaid time off options and we support them in doing so.”