Workers Strike At Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods For Safer Work Conditions During COVID-19

01 Apr, 2020 Liz Carey


New York, NY ( – On Monday, workers for Amazon and InstaCart went on strike to protest unsafe working conditions in this time of the coronavirus.

At Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse, workers walked out during lunch to protest, fearing that their health is being jeopardized because they aren’t always physically distanced and the site has not been closed for sanitizing. Ten workers at the site have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

"We are working long, crowded shifts in the epicenter of a global pandemic, and Amazon has failed to provide us with the most basic safeguards to protect us, our families, and the public's health,” Rina Cummings, an Amazon worker at the Staten Island facility, said in a statement released by Athena, a coalition of groups that represent Amazon workers. “We are walking out to protest the impossible choice of coming to work in a toxic workplace and possibly spreading the virus or going unpaid during an economic crisis.”

Amazon also faced a “sickout” on Tuesday, as more workers protest the working conditions at warehouses across the country.

Chris Smalls, an organizer for the protest, said he was fired Monday for violating “multiple safety issues.”

According to reports, Amazon said he was told to stay home with pay for 14 days due to be in close contact with an infected employee, but Smalls came to work anyway and the company opted to fire him.

"Amazon would rather fire workers than face up to its total failure to do what it should to keep us, our families, and our communities safe," Smalls said in an emailed statement to protest organizers.

NY Attorney General Letitia James said she would be considering her options to address Smalls’ firing.

“It is disgraceful that Amazon would terminate an employee who bravely stood up to protect himself and his colleagues,” she said in a statement. “At the height of a global pandemic, Chris Smalls and his colleagues publicly protested the lack of precautions that Amazon was taking to protect them from COVID-19. Today, Chris Smalls was fired. In New York, the right to organize is codified into law, and any retaliatory action by management related thereto is strictly prohibited. At a time when so many New Yorkers are struggling and are deeply concerned about their safety, this action was also immoral and inhumane. 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.”

And on social media, a petition to hold a sick-out on March 31 got more than 10,000 signatures.

"COVID-19 is 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," the petition read. Whole Foods is owned by Amazon.

The Whole Foods sick-out organizers said they were concerned that Amazon warehouses and Whole Foods stores stayed open despite having employees at those locations who tested positive for the coronavirus.

In their petition, they asked for guaranteed paid leave for workers who self-isolate or self-quarantine; reinstatement of health care coverage for part-time and seasonal workers; increased FSA funds to cover testing and treatment for all team members; guaranteed hazard pay; implementation of new policies to facilitate social distancing and a commitment that all locations have adequate sanitation procedures in place. The organizing committee also asked that if any Whole Foods facility has workers who test positive for COVID-19 that the facility shut down and workers be paid until the facility can safely open again.

The move was supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents 1.3 million retail workers.

“Amazon, Instacart and Whole Foods workers are sending a powerful message that it’s time to stop putting corporate profits ahead of the health and safety of the men and women who are critical to our food supply, and are on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak," UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement.

The sick-out at Whole Foods comes just days after a group of attorneys general across the country urged Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon and Whole Foods, to improve protections for workers, including paid sick leave.

"By limiting paid sick leave only to those who have been definitely diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have been placed into quarantine, Whole Foods and Amazon are placing their employees, customers and the public at large in significant risk of exposure," the letter from 15 attorneys general, including those from California, New York and Washington said.

  • AI california case management case management focus claims cms compensability compliance courts covid do you know the rule exclusive remedy florida glossary check Healthcare health care iowa leadership medical medicare minnesota NCCI new jersey new york ohio opioids osha pennsylvania Safety state info technology tennessee texas violence virginia WDYT west virginia what do you think women's history month workcompcollege workers' comp 101 workers' recovery workers' compensation contact information Workplace Safety Workplace Violence

  • Read Also

    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

    Read More

    Request a Demo

    To request a free demo of one of our products, please fill in this form. Our sales team will get back to you shortly.