Update 1 p.m. ET: FN has reported on Target and Amazon’s responses to the planned strike.
What we originally reported:
Workers from multiple corporations — including Amazon, Target and Walmart — are planning a “May Day” strike.
On Friday, employees from those companies (as well as FedEx and Instacart) reportedly plan to call in sick or to walk out of work during their lunch break. The protest is meant to call attention to perceived inadequate health and safety standards amid the coronavirus pandemic — and workers are asking for improved standards as well as hazard pay.
Former Amazon employee Christian Smalls shared a flyer for the event on Twitter, listing a number of companies whose employees may participate in the demonstration. Smalls organized a 15-person protest over a purported lack of safety conditions at the e-commerce giant’s facility in Staten Island, N.Y. He was fired shortly after leading the walkout, however, Amazon said the termination was due to Smalls receiving “multiple warnings for violating social distancing guidelines.”
To protect workers from contracting the virus, Amazon said it has been conducting temperature checks and providing face masks to staff members in warehouses in the United States and Europe, as well as in Whole Foods stores. However, the e-tailer is under investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who says the company may have violated the state’s whistleblower protections by terminating Smalls and could also be in violation of federal worker health and safety guidelines.
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Additionally, five U.S. senators — including former Democratic presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand — penned a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos earlier this month inquiring about Smalls’ firing. They also expressed concerns about short supplies of personal protective equipment following reports that the retailer had masks and gloves only in “limited quantities.”
At Walmart, all employees are required to wear masks, and the retailer said it is checking their temperatures. The chain has also reduced store hours to allow for increased cleaning and restocking and has installed social distance markers and sneeze guards within its stores. And it has reduced the capacity of its stores to about 20%.
However, Walmart has received backlash for perceived inadequate COVID-19-related precautions. Earlier this month, four United States senators — Booker, Gillibrand, Sherrod Brown and Richard Blumenthal — penned a letter urging Walmart to improve safety for its front-line workers following reports that several employees have died of the coronavirus. Further, a wrongful death suit — alleging that Walmart failed to implement proper health and safety standards to protect its workforce — has been filed in Illinois by the family of a Walmart store worker who died after contracting COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Target has begun to monitor and limit shopper traffic across its outposts. The retailer has also started providing face masks and gloves to its store associates and distribution center workers and has added Plexiglass partitions at its registers.
Representatives from Walmart did not immediately respond to FN’s requests for comment.