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Workers from Amazon, Instacart, and others are calling in sick to protest poor virus protections

Workers from Amazon, Instacart, and others are calling in sick to protest poor virus protections


Demands include better cleaning services and 14-day shutdowns at affected locations

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

On May 1st, workers from Amazon, Whole Foods, Instacart, FedEx, Target, and Walmart joined together in a series of work stoppages to protest conditions and equipment in the face of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The actions have been organized by a range of groups within the various companies, but are timed to coincide with International Workers’ Day. The groups are encouraging customers to boycott the stores and services for the duration of the day.

Organizers at Amazon said thousands of employees are participating in the actions nationwide.

A flyer distributed in support of the work stoppages.
A flyer distributed in support of the work stoppages.

The groups are calling for better practices and equipment to protect frontline workers from contracting the disease at work. Specifics of those protections vary between companies and jobs: Instacart workers are calling for better distribution of personal protective equipment (or PPE), while Whole Foods workers are calling for locations with positive cases to be shut down for 14 days.

Amazon delivery service partners are asking for professional cleaners to sanitize vehicles at the end of each shift. Currently, drivers are provided with cleaning supplies and asked to sanitize the vehicles themselves.

Amazon has refused to disclose the number of employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, communicating only individual cases to the employees affected. As part of today’s action, Amazon employees are pushing back against that practice and calling on the company to “be transparent and honest about the number of cases they have in their facilities.”

Earlier this month, Amazon implemented new policies to protect workers from the virus, including two weeks of paid sick leave and unlimited unpaid leave for employees who believe they may have been exposed. But implementation of the policies has been uneven, and the broader uncertainty has fueled further organizing efforts within the company.

“Are you being pressured to forge or doctor any sanitation logs?” one organizing document distributed among Whole Foods workers reads. “Are your leaders putting aside store sales and tight labor budgets to prioritize your health and well-being?”

Reached for comment, Amazon disputed organizers’ claims that employees lacked the necessary resources to work safely, pointing to increase in paid time off and workplace PPE. “Masks, temperature checks, hand sanitizer, increased time off, increased pay, and more are standard across our Amazon and Whole Food Market networks already,” the company said. “We spend every day focused on what else Amazon can do to keep our people and communities safe and healthy.”

Updated 11:20AM ET: Added comment from Amazon