Today, May Day, thousands of frontline workers at Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods, Target, and FedEx have organized a historic strike to protest working conditions and demand worker protections at these companies, which have all seen revenues skyrocket during the coronavirus pandemic.
Striking workers say they have formed an "alliance" to help save the lives of workers and communities who have faced increased workloads and unprecedented dangers in the wake of the pandemic. They are asking customers to boycott these companies during the strike. Almost uniformly, the companies they work for have retaliated against workers or refused to meet their demands, which include guaranteed paid sick leave, personal protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer, and hazard pay.
Motherboard asked some workers who are participating in the strike to take the brave step of explaining why they are striking, and what they want the public to know about their working conditions.
Tim Billado, Whole Foods worker, Portland, Oregon
One would think that with the economic resources it would take to put together a union organizing tracking system that Whole Foods would listen to their team members’ concerns and make good on providing things like a livable wage and paid sick time for all workers. No need for fancy (and probably expensive) technology to tell you what could be known by actually listening to your workers. It’s almost like they feel threatened by their workers advocating for autonomy. Public support is what helps workers have the confidence to organize.
Willy Solis, Shipt shopper, Dallas, Texas
There are two things I would like to tell the general public about Shipt. The first one is that they will do anything in their power to silence our voices. They will go as far as defaming us, smearing us, and outright intimidation. They will release our personal information to the media in an effort to discredit us, so that we are not used as reliable sources. Even if we’re not being utilized as a source for a particular story. Our information is being given freely in an effort to keep us from speaking out. The second thing I would like the general public to know is that we will not be silenced. We are a collective of several thousand people. Singularly, we are weak, collectively we are strong. We will continue to speak out the truth. In regards to our demands, PPE for all, for example. Shipt tells the general public that they have procured enough PPE for all shoppers. The reality is that all shoppers have not received PPE, only a select few have. I myself have ordered masks and have yet to receive them. And here we are at the end of April. The reality on the ground is totally different than the PR spin being given by the company. I ask that customers and shoppers support us by calling Shipt and voicing their concerns. Let them know that we deserve to be heard, we have a right to speak out, we have a right to ask for basic protections.
An anonymous Shipt shopper
I have been working as a Shipt Shopper since December of last year. When I started this job, I thought it would be perfect for my situation. I've had two failed spinal fusions, so being able to work a schedule of my own making and choose what I pick up was ideal. However, this job is creating a major issue in my life because Shipt doesn't see me as a person. I'm a number on a body bag. They don't care if I live or die working this job. There are more people who can replace me. I loved this job. Being able to help people, shop at Target, and be paid. Yes, please. Now it's a constant fight to get orders. They are lying left and right in their PR scheme. It's hurtful to be treated with such little disrespect. I'm striking for hazard pay and for a more transparent pay scale. I need to know how much I'm going to make so I can continue to see my doctor, get my prescriptions, pay my rent, and all my other bills.
Essence Nash, Amazon warehouse worker, Etna, Ohio
I am striking because of Amazon's work environment is hard mentally, physically and emotionally. It's sad we had to wait for a pandemic to get to this point, but I'm hoping this changes the work environment and labor as a whole for the future. Two things I wish the public knew about work conditions are that we get cases of COVID-19 daily and that there are no extra steps they're taking besides the ones we have been doing since the pandemic started. We’re also being micromanaged all day everyday no matter what you do while we’re at work.
Cassidy Melczak, Target worker, specialty sales in tech, Matthews, North Carolina
I'd like the public to know that most Target team members they come into contact with every day do not have health insurance. That means they can't actually get the testing they need to know whether or not they are carriers for the virus, because many carriers don't have symptoms.
I'd also like the public to understand that this is a natural disaster. It's slow and invisible, but people are dying. We don't keep stores open during a wildfire so that people can buy a TV or a new video game console. We send in front line experts and protect the people who are in harm's way. We should be treating this the same.
Minnie Val, Shipt shopper
I am striking on May 1st because Shipt has cut my pay while saying they are paying their shoppers 30 percent more. This is a horrible thing to do during these COVID-19 times. They also haven't provided everyone with PPE while stating in the press that they have.
Bill, Instacart full service shopper, Houston, Texas
I think it’s ironic we’re talking about a strike because basically I’ve been made unemployed by Instacart. Being a full-service shopper for Instacart for two years, I averaged between $500-$800 a week, but because of certain elements of Instacart being hacked by third party bots or an overhiring, I have basically been rendered unemployed. The last two weeks I made $130 and $60.
Tom, FedEx Ground packaging handler, Grove City, Ohio
I am striking in solidarity with Amazon and other workers all over the United States, because I believe a better world is truly possible. If we all come together and stop the machinery of the system, we can democratically make demands and make a world where men like Jeff Bezos and Fred Smith can’t profit billions off the deaths and misery of their workers, especially during a pandemic.
One thing I wish people knew is that we die moving packages for FedEx, and it’s been happening before COVID-19. In late January of 2019, a FedEx worker died after being exposed to temperatures exceeding -20 degrees in East Moline, Illinois. An unknown number of FedEx employees have died so far from COVID-19.
The second thing I wish people knew was that they are not protecting us, drivers and other hubs aren’t getting PPE, drivers and multiple hubs aren’t being compensated properly at FedEx Ground and Express, they’re not temperature checking people, they have us working on top of each other and aren’t following social distancing guidelines, they have drivers coming in for things that could be emailed. FedEx isn’t taking this seriously and Fred Smith and the corporate executives, and shareholders do not care about us, they care about money.