Grocery and delivery workers are doing some of the most potentially dangerous jobs in America during the coronavirus outbreak and they are demanding better pay and protection. Amazon workers at a New York City warehouse walked off the job Monday and Instacart workers held strikes nationwide, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. Whole Foods workers plan to walk out on Tuesday. Workers at all three companies, which do not have unions, are calling for better pay, more protective gear, and extended paid sick time. At Instacart, a grocery delivery service, workers are calling for hazard pay of $5 per order, along with equipment like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. The Amazon workers in Staten Island called for the facility to be shut and cleaned after a co-worker tested positive for COVID-19.
“We are not just walking off to protect ourselves, we are walking off to protect our customers,” California Instacart worker Vanessa Bain tells the New York Times. “Workers are touching every single thing that a customer receives in their order. If we get sick, invariably that means they are going to get sick, too.” But the impact of walkouts is likely to be blunted by the massive hiring spree at affected companies. Instacart says it has signed up 250,000 “gig workers” over the last week. “There’s a tsunami of unemployed people who lost wages in the last two weeks,” Andrew Challenger, an exec at recruitment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, tells the AP. “A lot of the people who have been let go are lower wage workers who left positions similar to the ones that need to be filled right now.” (Read more coronavirus stories.)