Now Gordon is back on the job. His wife, Jaycee, who is in the middle of a high-risk pregnancy, had to leave her own position at Walmart last month for health reasons, so Gordon is the family’s only wage earner. But he’s terrified that he’ll catch coronavirus and bring it home.

“I’ve thought about quitting and leaving at least six to eight times a day,” Gordon said. “At this point I wish they would fire me.”

The shutdown of much of the US economy has produced devastating levels of unemployment. At least 16 million people have applied for jobless benefits in the last three weeks, and many more have tried in vain to do so. Yet many retail workers who are still at their jobs are now questioning whether they’d be better off without them.

Mario Crippen led a walk-out at an Amazon fulfillment center in Michigan on April 1. He has been continuing to push for better conditions at the workplace, where he said there have now been at least eight confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“I’m fearful for my life every time I walk inside the building,” he said. “The more and more they say they’re doing, the more and more they’re lying.”