On May 1, Friday, which was International Workers’ Day, delivery and warehouse workers in the United States went on strike. Workers at major corporations like Amazon, Whole Foods, FedEx, Walmart, Instacart and Target, among others, called in sick at their workplaces as part of the countrywide campaign for better workplace safety and benefits. The strike was organized by a coalition of local organizers from across the US.
Warehousing and delivery workers in the US are considered part of the essential services that are required to remain open as much of the country is under coronavirus-related lockdown. Workers from across the country have been complaining of unsafe working conditions during the outbreak and the lack of measures to protect their wages and jobs.
The demands of the strike included payment of all pending wages and hazard pay for working during the pandemic, distribution of personal protective equipment for delivery workers, safe and sanitary work environments, extra paid leaves and time-offs during the outbreaks, and better transparency in policies to prevent COVID-19 outbreak.
Chris Smalls, one of the organizers of the protest, exhorted workers and customers alike to join the strike. In a tweet that Smalls wrote at the outset of the strike, he said, “Protect all workers at all cost, we are not expendable (sic) or replaceable. enough is enough TAKE THE POWER BACK!”
Smalls is a former Amazon employee who was fired after raising issues regarding workers’ safety at Staten Island. Nearly a month ago, workers at the Amazon “fulfilment center” in Staten Island had walked out after being exposed to unsafe and unhygienic conditions after 10 cases COVID-19 infections were reported in the facility alone. Chris Smalls was fired for apparently “violating” the company’s social distancing policy.
In an earlier report by The Intercept, Daniel Steinbrook, an employee at one of Amazon’s subsidiary Whole Foods, had stated workers from different megacorporations had been organizing in tandem “for International Workers Day to show solidarity with other essential workers in our struggle for better protections and benefits in the pandemic.”
Apart from delivery and warehousing, the social media was also teeming with solidarity messages from other frontline workers, including healthcare workers and transport workers, and customers.
Thank you to all the Nurses the true Heroes ?♀️ that came out to support me today NYC epic center they said they treat essential workers more than anything so we’re fighting for helps them out wow #solidarity #ChrisSmalls pic.twitter.com/nsP65Oo1IH
— Christian Smalls (@Shut_downAmazon) May 1, 2020
It’s May Day – international workers day.
Brave workers are these companies are on strike:
➡️ Trader Joe’s
➡️ Whole Foods
Their demands center around workplace safety under COVID-19.
Stand with workers. Do not shop at these companies today.
— Becca Rast (@BeccaRast) May 1, 2020
reminder not to buy anything from select businesses tomorrow for the May Day strike, such as Target, Walmart, Whole Foods, Amazon, Instacart, and others profiting off of the pandemic without offering the bare minimum for their employees.
— ???? ??? (@ginnybug_) May 1, 2020
Senator Bernie Sanders also supported the workers’ strike, stating that the “endless corporate greed has to end.”
On this #MayDay2020, I stand with the workers at Amazon, Whole Foods, Instacart and Target who are on strike.
Essential workers are putting their lives on the line and deserve protection and hazard pay.
The endless corporate greed has got to end! https://t.co/v68WCw9kAr
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 1, 2020
Other progressive Democratic Party leaders like Jesse Jackson, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ro Khanna and Elizabeth Warren have also extended their support to the workers’ struggle. Khanna and Warren have also co-authored an “Essential Workers Bill of Rights” to be tabled in the US Congress to further the same demands made by the striking workers.
This #MayDay, we must honor the millions of workers who keep the electricity and internet flowing, make sure that we can get groceries and medicine, and care for the sick.
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) May 1, 2020