Amazon & Instacart Workers Go On Strike

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Today, Amazon and Instacart workers in New York walked off the job. Their message is clear: give us adequate safety equipment and paid sick leave, or we strike.

The strike comes less than a week after Amazon announced plans to hire 100,000 new employees and independent contractors in the next several weeks in response to a spike in online shopping. 

According to workers at Amazon’s Staten Island facility, several people at the warehouse have tested positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19), and while the company calls their workforce “heroes,” workers don’t feel they’re being sufficiently protected from the highly contagious virus.

“They’re not giving us hazard pay,” according to Instacart worker Sarah Polito via NPR, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Public health officials across the nation are urging people to #StayHome to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but essential businesses  and workers — grocery stores, pharmacies, fuel stations, sanitation workers, public transit operators among others — are required to report to work while the virus continues to spread. But, according to Assistant Professor at Occidental College and environmental justice expert J. Mijin Cha, only about 1/3 of workers have the privilege of being able to work from home.

“Communities of color and low income communities are disproportionately affected. Communities that don’t have the resources to be resilient can’t be resilient in the face of this climate crisis and can’t be resilient in the face of this pandemic,” says Cha, who claims the virus has exposed an unequal and inequitable society.

Last week, Birmingham MAX transit operators refused to drive scheduled routes, and a coalition of predominantly Black sanitation workers within Teamsters Local Union 249 in Pittsburgh skipped trash collection.

“Here we are at my job. Ain’t picking up no rub,” Pittsburgh sanitation worker Fitzroy Moss said in a Facebook live video. “The rubbish is sitting there. That’s all they care about is picking up the garbage. They don’t even care about our health.”

Many Americans are calling for a #GeneralStrike in which a considerable portion of the total labor force across the nation – even those considered essential workers – launch a strike action. “Workers have power and a strike is a way to express that power,” says Cha, “You never cross a picket line.” 

Cha recommends that the best way to stand in solidarity with workers on strike is to avoid patronizing their companies and to call your elected officials.

While many Americans deal with the anxiety of an uncertain future, she maintains that we are still obligated to be engaged citizens. “The more that we can call and make our objections known, the stronger our democracy will be.”

Originally posted 2020-03-30 20:03:58.

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