The strike against Amazon turned out to be a dud. Despite the best efforts of a discontented Amazon employee at its Staten Island warehouse, the walk-out he called for only inspired 15 workers to participate on Monday, according to Amazon.
Chris Smalls, a management assistant, and walk-out organizer, however, says about 50 people walked out. There are 5,000 employees at the warehouse. Whichever number is the real one, Smalls is in the minority of those trying to leverage their much-needed services against the demands in which companies find themselves in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Not only did the walk-out fail, but Smalls was also fired.
As I wrote about yesterday, Smalls is on paid sick leave himself. Management at the Amazon warehouse told him to stay at home after he came in contact with an employee who tested positive for COVID-19. The reason he called for the walk-out by employees was to pressure the management of the warehouse into shutting down the facility and doing a major cleaning of it after a worker tested positive for COVID-19 as well as paying workers higher wages.
Smalls’ walk-out found a supporter in Sandy from the Bronx, a.k.a. Rep. Alexandria Cortez-Ocasio. She tweeted out encouragement.
First Instacart, then Amazon, now Whole Foods: workers are withholding their labor& demanding dignity.
When people work an hourly job, it’s suggested in many ways that you‘re unimportant or expendable.
Except you aren’t. Everyone deserves safe work, paid leave, & a living wage. https://t.co/JCC7A6RiUe
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 30, 2020
Instead of remaining home, Smalls, an employee with the company for five years, went to the warehouse Monday to participate in the walk-out. He was fired for violating instructions to stay home and self-quarantine. He calls it retaliation for organizing the walk-out, the company says it is for showing up in person when he should have been at home.
“Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came on site today, March 30, further putting the teams at risk. This is unacceptable and we have terminated his employment as a result of these multiple safety issues,” Kristen Kish said in a statement.
“Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable,” the statement said. ““The truth is the vast majority of employees continue to show up and do the heroic work of delivering for customers every day.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James is looking into the case. She calls it “disgraceful” and calls upon the National Labor Relations Board to investigate.
“In New York, the right to organize is codified into law, and any retaliatory action by management related thereto is strictly prohibited,” James said in a statement.
“At a time when so many New Yorkers are struggling and are deeply concerned about their safety, this action was also immoral and inhumane.”
Amazon spokeswoman Lisa Levandowski stated in an email statement that Amazon is working to keep up with increased customer demands while protecting employees at work.
Earlier Monday, Levandowski said Amazon is increasing the facility’s cleaning, encouraging safe distancing among its staff and checking employees’ temperatures as they arrive to keep workers safe.
“Like all businesses grappling with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable,” Levandowski said.
Also on Monday, Instacart shoppers began a nationwide strike to demand additional pay, hazard pay with each order, and additional safety protection. Like with the Amazon walk-out most Instacart workers were ignoring the call to strike, grateful to be employed during a time of massive lay-offs due to the coronavirus crisis. That didn’t stop two presidential candidates from weighing in on Twitter and Facebook in support of the strike. Bernie was out in front of it, of course, as he tweeted about it on Saturday. As usual, Joe Biden responded in the same way on Facebook in hopes of keeping up with comrade Sanders on Sunday.
.@Instacart was last valued at nearly $8 billion. A company of this size should not be forcing its workers to put themselves — and us all — at risk. I stand with the workers, and encourage Instacart to meet the their demands.https://t.co/x7Jid1NvWH
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 28, 2020
Instacart needs to step up and give their workers the protections and pay they need and deserve. Now.
What Joe Biden did here was to allow the radical far-left of the Democrat Party to push him to their socialist side of the argument. Instead of standing up in support of the Amazon and Instacart customers in real need right now, the elderly and medically at-risk Americans who are sheltering-in-place as instructed by experts in the medical field and public officials, the socialist wing of the Democrat Party encourages a disruption of service to them. Even though Amazon and Instacart have both said that they are responding to employees and doing what is possible to keep everyone safe and employed, it wasn’t enough for the discontented employees. Joe Biden, the safe and reliable candidate, is being pushed farther left in order to keep up with Sanders. Biden will need Sanders’ supporters in November and he has to try and look like he’s one of them. That’s not leadership, that’s herd mentality.
Today, workers at Whole Foods are planning to strike, too. Whole Foods is owned by Amazon and the company has already made provisions for its workers. Just like with Amazon warehouse workers and Instacart shoppers, it’s not enough to satisfy them. They want stores to be shut down because employees have tested positive for COVID-19 in New York City, Chicago, Louisiana, and California. At a time when food stores are scrambling to keep up with demand, they want stores to close. That throws all the employees out of work and further compromises customers who are unable to get out and shop for themselves. It should also be noted that the hourly rate for Amazon workers who moved over to Whole Foods is $19 per hour and $38 per hour for overtime.
“In recent weeks, Whole Foods—a subsidiary of Amazon— has increased hourly pay for its workers by $2 an hour, offered to provide two weeks of paid sick leave to workers who test positive for Covid-19, and said it would not penalize workers for calling out sick.”
Amazon Prime has seen a large increase in business as the coronavirus pandemic continues. The same is true for Instacart and other delivery services. All are hiring additional workers to keep up with the demands. At a time of national crisis, the ugly wing of the socialist left rises and politicians look to score cheap points at the expense of the food supply of elderly and medically at-risk Americans. It is despicable. We have come to expect it from the likes of AOC and Bernie. We see you, too, Joe Biden. You’d think two old medically-compromised geezers like Biden and Sanders would understand the dangerous stand they are taking in hopes of gaining votes in November.