Work strikes at Amazon, Instacart and Whole Foods show essential workers’ safety concerns

After a month of frenzied shopping, stay-at-home measures and the escalation of the coronavirus crisis, the pressure cooker of the workplace appears ready to boil over.

Workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, New York, walked out during lunch Monday, over concerns about safety at the job site. “How many cases we got? Ten!” went a call-and-response chant outside the fulfillment center that afternoon, in reference to workers who had tested positive there with COVID-19.

Co-workers there feared for their own health because workers weren’t always physically distanced and the site was not closed to be sanitized. “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 to protect us, our families, and the public’s health,” said Rina Cummings, a worker at the center, in a statement released by Athena, a coalition of groups that represent Amazon workers and others concerned about the company’s influence.

“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,” she said.

Fears of contamination and risk also led to as many as 150,000 workers for grocery delivery service Instacart to execute a nationwide strike on Monday. Their action got wide support on Twitter from notables such as Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and concerned consumers such as Ifeanyi Ezeh, a computing engineer living near Columbia, Maryland.

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Source: USA Today