Amazon and Instacart Workers Are Threatening to Strike — How Are They Avoiding Disaster?
Instacart workers are striking on Monday, while Amazon workers at a Staten Island warehouse planned a walk-out at noon
Gig Workers Collective recently teamed up with Instacart, encouraging the grocery delivery platform to take proper safety precautions amid the pandemic — but in a Medium post this weekend, claimed their requests had been “ignored.”
“Instacart has still not provided essential protections to Shoppers on the front lines that could prevent them from becoming carriers, falling ill themselves, or worse. Instacart’s promise to pay Shoppers up to 14 days of pay if diagnosed or placed in mandatory quarantine not only falls short, but isn’t even being honored,” the post said.
The workers went on to say they had a strike planned for Monday, and would continue to strike until the company provided protective equipment, hazard pay of an additional $5 an order and an automatic 10 percent tip, an extension and expansion of pay for those impacted directly by the virus, and a benefits extension beyond April 8.
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“Actions speak louder than words,” Instacart shopper Sarah Polito told 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.”
Instacart, which recently announced it would add 300,000 people to its workforce due to a massive increase in demand, has been offering bonuses of between $25 and $200 for hourly employees, the Associated Press reported.
On Sunday, the company announced it would work with a third party to manufacture its own hand sanitizer for employees that’ll ship next week.
It also said that regarding tips, all existing customers’ completed orders will now default to their last tip amount, though the updates were not received warmly by staffers, who called them “insulting” in a Medium post.
The complaints against the company largely that the response was too little, too late, and that hazard pay went unaddressed.
“The health and safety of our entire community — shoppers, customers, and employees — is our first priority. Our goal is to offer a safe and flexible earnings opportunity to shoppers, while also proactively taking the appropriate precautionary measures to operate safely,” Instacart said in a statement to PEOPLE.
“We want to underscore that we absolutely respect the rights of shoppers to provide us feedback and voice their concerns. It’s a valuable way for us to continuously make improvements to the shopper experience and we’re committed to supporting this important community during this critical time,” they continued. “We’ve made a number of significant enhancements to our products and offerings over the last few weeks that demonstrate Instacart’s unwavering commitment to prioritizing the health and safety of the entire Instacart community. And, we will continue to make additional updates over the coming days, weeks and months.”
Meanwhile, about 100 workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York said they were planning to participate in a walk-out on Monday at noon, CNBC reported.
The workers grew concerned after a colleague at the facility tested positive for coronavirus last week.
They’ve since been pushing for the closure of the warehouse in order for It to be properly cleaned, and that all 4,500 workers continue to be paid during the cleaning.
“Since the building won’t close by itself, we’re going to have to force [Amazon’s] hand. We will not return until the building gets sanitized,” management assistant Chris Smalls, who is also helping organize the strike, told CNBC. An Amazon spokesperson told PEOPLE in a statement that Smalls is currently on a two-week self-quarantine with full pay as requested by the company after he was possibly exposed to someone who tested positive in the building.
Amazon temporarily closed warehouses in Queens, New York and Shepherdsville, Kentucky after employees contracted the coronavirus, and a company spokesperson told the outlet it has taken “extreme measures to keep people safe.”
“These accusations are simply unfounded. Our employees are heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items they need in this crisis. Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable,” an Amazon spokesperson told PEOPLE in a statement. “We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available, and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances. The truth is the vast majority of employees continue to show up and do the heroic work of delivering for customers every day.”
According to NPR, striking workers also want more access to paid sick time off from Amazon, which recently announced that it had temporarily raised pay by $2 an hour through April.
The company has also implemented daily temperature screenings at the Staten Island warehouse.
“At JFK8, 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,” Rina Cummings, a worker at the warehouse, told Bloomberg in a statement. “We are walking out to protest the impossible choice of coming to work at a toxic workplace and possibly spreading the virus or going unpaid during an economic crisis.”
Despite the walk-out threats, the spokesperson told PEOPLE that Amazon’s supply chain is “strong,” and that customers need not fret over whether they’ll receive their items.
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