Coronavirus U.S.: Amazon, Instacart And Whole Food Workers Strike

Gus Saltonstall

Multiple groups of workers deemed essential during the coronavirus crisis in the United States went on strike Monday, or plan to do so in the near future, as a way to get better working conditions and paid leave.

Already on Monday, up to 200,000 Instacart workers are on strike over what they say are unsafe working conditions related to the spread of the new coronavirus. Instacart, a grocery and household item delivery company, has seen a major uptick as more people begin to depend on food delivery services.

However, Instacart employees — called “shoppers” — say that the uptick in profit hasn’t aligned with an increased concern for their safety.

“Now, its mistreatment of Shoppers has stooped at an all-time low,” said a statement by a group calling itself the Instacart Shoppers and Gig Workers Collective. “They are profiting astronomically off of us literally risking our lives, all while refusing to provide us with effective protection, meaningful pay, and meaningful benefits.”

Instacart on March 9 announced new guidelines and policies to support the health and safety of its shoppers during the coronavirus outbreak. Additionally, the company said it had secured hand sanitizer for the workers.

Meanwhile, in New York City, a group of Amazon workers walked off the job Monday afternoon and went on strike, demanding that the Seattle-based company shut down the Staten Island location to properly disinfect the facility after the workers said multiple employees have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Amazon has said in a recent news release that the company has gone to “great lengths” to make sure facilities are clean and that necessary safety precautions are followed. The tech giant has also announced a raise in hourly pay for warehouse workers and delivery drivers, doubling overtime pay and allowing for unlimited unpaid time off.

Additionally, Amazon announced last week it would offer paid time off for part-time warehouse workers. However, Amazon workers in the Staten Island facility have told multiple news networks that management hasn’t been honest over which employees are sick.

The planned strikes by essential workers during the coronavirus crisis don’t stop with Instacart and Amazon. Employees with Whole Foods are set to strike Tuesday over what they call a lack of employee protections.

“As this situation progressed, our fundamental needs as workers have become more urgent,” Whole Worker, a labor movement within the grocery chain, wrote in a statement. “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.”

You can read more about the specific requests laid out by Whole Worker on behalf of Whole Foods employees on its campaign page.

Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, has boosted wages for U.S. workers and promised two weeks of paid leave for employees diagnosed with coronavirus or those made to quarantine.

Patch reached out to Whole Foods Market for comment and received the following emailed response from a spokesperson for the company:

"As we address unprecedented demand and fulfill a critical need in our communities, Whole Foods Market is committed to prioritizing our Team Members’ wellbeing, while recognizing their extraordinary dedication. We have taken extensive measures to keep people safe, and in addition to social distancing, enhanced deep cleaning and crowd control measures, we continue rolling out new safety protocols in our stores to protect our Team Members who are on the front lines serving our customers. Team Members in our stores and facilities also have access to up to two weeks of paid time off if they test positive for COVID or are quarantined, an additional $2 per hour on top of hourly base pay, and increased overtime pay. Whole Foods Market's longstanding open door policy encourages direct dialogue between Team Members and leadership, feedback which continues to shape the decisions we are making every day."

This article originally appeared on the Across America Patch