Amazon and Instacart workers strike in New York, demanding safety and compensation

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Amazon and Instacart workers plan to strike today [Monday] to raise awareness about their working conditions and demand negotiations with their employers. As nationwide stay-at-home orders have lengthened, the need for online delivery services has increased, as have the demands on the workers who make those deliveries possible. Workers are, in turn, demanding increased pay and protection as they continue to do their jobs, NPR reported.

Workers at Amazon’s Staten Island, New York warehouse plan to walk off the job at 12:30 pm EST, reported CNN. Employees are protesting the company’s decision to keep the warehouse open despite a worker being confirmed positive for COVID-19. Christian Smalls, a worker at the facility who is leading the walkout, contends that more employees have tested positive for the virus than the company has publicly admitted to. "The plan is to cease all operations until the building is closed and sanitized," Smalls told CNN. "We're asking the building to be closed and sanitized, and for us to be paid [while the warehouse is closed]."

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It’s not just Amazon employees that are organizing. Instacart employees are reportedly planning to stop taking orders today and will refuse to do so until Instacart provides workers with basic safety gear (like hand sanitizer), a hazard pay increase of $5 an order, and paid sick leave that includes workers with pre-existing conditions, according to a statement made by the Gig Workers Collective, who is organizing the strike. This strike is momentous as it is the first time that gig workers have walked off the job during the COVID crisis.

To be clear, Amazon and Instacart are separate companies, but their employees have a lot in common, particularly now. Both of these companies are experiencing massive increases in sales and are having hiring sprees as a result. The retail megaliths have been vocal about how their workers are heroes for putting themselves on the frontlines, in part, perhaps to appeal to new employees, which they badly need in order to meet consumer demand. But many of their current employees do not feel safe or adequately compensated.

Most of us are feeling some financial impact from the COVID pandemic, and paid work is getting increasingly more precious, but that should not mean that workers become less precious and more easily exploited. Individuals working at Amazon and Instacart are taking action in order to get their employers to respond to very reasonable requests, and I, for one, am 100 percent on board — even if it means some minor inconvenience.