Amazon warehouses and shoppers for Instacart and Shipt called in sick in an arm-in-arm one-day protest over working conditions and lax safety protections during the COVID-19 outbreak.
In Amazon’s situation, there was a little extra payback. When the clock struck midnight on May 1 — International Workers Day — the company’s policy giving unlimited unpaid time off for workers ended.
“The fact they took it away prior to the sick-out lets you know they’re aware of the sick-out and trying to stop people from participating in that,” said Derrick Palmer, a four-year Amazon warehouse employee in Staten Island, New York, told The Guardian. “Now they’re forcing people to go to work because if you run out of unpaid time off, that’s it, you’re fired.”
A legal leg to stand on
The sick-out stagers point to their “right to refuse unsafe work conditions” as defined by the Occupational Safety and Hazards Act (OSHA) and the National Labor Relations Act, which bans employers from threatening, demoting, retaliating with wrongful termination, reducing hours, etc., against any employee who wants to exercise their rights.
Apparently, they mean business, too. Target’s striking workers say they’ll go as far as filing charges for any “retaliatory action Target and their representatives may engage in towards workers exercising these rights.”
Good is not good enough for Amazon workers
For Amazon and Instacart, the sick-out is a repeat performance from March 31 when workers for both companies first protested what they considered unsafe conditions.
Palmer said that Amazon did step up after the first protest and started making personal protective equipment available to workers. The company also took extra steps towards enforcing social distancing rules and temperature checks.
However, Palmer said there’s one thing the company left out of the mix: adequate cleaning procedures.
Target workers put some of the blame on the consumer
In the Target Team Member Sick-Out Pledge, workers claim that “foot traffic and guest behavior have been atrocious, putting us at needless risk when greater safety measures are required to ensure social distancing.
Workers nor guests have been required to wear masks.”
The Pledge takes a few shots across the bow of consumers, evidently to try to make its point that Target corporate values the almighty dollar more than th>e care of its workforce.”
“Our maximum capacity of guests has been set too high, their demeanor is also casual and reckless,” says the Pledge. “They do not respect our space, they are not coming to our stores exclusively for essential items, but are occupying our stores out of boredom and for fun.”
“The guests’ desire for recreation are not more important than team members’ needs for safety. Our pay and compensation are not adequate enough to cover the costs of hospitalization or funeral expenses related to COVID19.”
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