Essential Workers Strike on May Day

By Sandra Harris

Workers at a handful of major companies such as Amazon, Whole Foods, Instacart, Target, Shipt, and FedEx are calling in sick or walking out today for International Workers’ Day to demand better working conditions and hazard pay.

Workers at Trader Joe’s have also showed support for the strike and announced that they will participate. Many of these workers are in low-wage jobs, working in grocery stores and warehouses that lack basic health benefits and worker protections.

Nurses across 13 states are also protesting against the lack of personal protective equipment. As some of the lowest paid healthcare workers caring for those infected with the coronavirus, nurses are demanding gloves and other protective equipment necessary to provide adequate care for sick patients while protecting themselves from infection.

Workers at Whole Foods and Amazon have been organizing “sick outs” and walking off the job to protest against the lack of guaranteed paid sick leave for workers who self-quarantine or isolate, lack of sanitized equipment, lack of healthcare coverage, among other problems that have arisen or been exacerbated by the economic crisis.

“This is a matter of life or death,” said Christian Smalls, a former Amazon worker who was fired from a Staten Island Amazon warehouse after organizing a walkout on March 30. “The virus is killing some of our employees.”

Grocery store and warehouse employees have been on the front lines as people turn to grocery stores and online orders for necessities while other businesses around the country have closed. Amazon reported a 26 percent spike in revenue for its first quarter earlier this week.

As the companies profit, protections and pay for the workers on the front lines have not improved. Many of these ‘essential workers’ have contracted the coronavirus, some leading to death and others acting as a catalyst for large-scale outbreaks.

Workers are calling for people to not shop and respect the strikes at these businesses.