Today’s Pickup: Amazon, Instacart workers walk off the job over COVID-19 concerns

Instacart worker


As COVID-19 continues to spread
across the nation, workers who are deemed essential are beginning to question
the safety protocols put in place by management. Workers at an Amazon facility
in Staten Island, New York, have reached the point that some have gone on
strike. Instacart workers are also trying to organize a strike.

According to various media reports,
about 100 Amazon employees hit the picket lines this morning to protest working
conditions following the news that a worker at the facility tested positive.
Bloomberg reports that workers are demanding the facility be closed for two
weeks and sanitized. The workers also want to be paid during this closure.

“All employers need to prioritize
the health and safety of their workforce at this time. Unfortunately, Amazon
appears to be prioritizing maximizing its enormous profits even over its
employees’  safety – and that is unacceptable,” Stuart Appelbaum, president
of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), said in a statement.

Amazon warehouses are not
unionized, although RWDSU has been working to try and get workers organized.

The Staten Island facility is not
the first where an Amazon worker has tested positive. Another New York center
was closed for cleaning following a positive test.

“Since the building won’t close by
itself, we’re going to have to force [Amazon’s] hand,” Chris Smalls, a
management assistant at the Staten Island facility, told CNBC. “We will
not return until the building gets sanitized.”

In a blog post on March
24, Amazon detailed what it is doing to maximize safety in its centers.

“We’ve adjusted our practices so
that our fulfillment center employees can maintain a safer distance from
co-workers. This includes eliminating stand-up meetings during shifts. Instead,
business-essential information is shared via white boards near main areas and
through conversations with managers or HR team members. We’ve staggered shift
start times and break times, spread out tables in the break rooms on site, and
suspended exit screening to ensure ease of movement near main entrances. We’ve
shifted trainings so we don’t have employees gathering in one spot, we’ve
adjusted our hiring process to encourage social distancing, and we’ve paused
hosting public guests in our buildings.”

Instacart workers, led by the Gig
Workers Collective, are asking the company to increase pay by $5 per order and
default the in-app tip to a minimum of 10% of the total order, provide
additional personal protective equipment such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant
wipes/sprays and soaps, extended pay for workers impacted by COVID-19 including
anyone who has a doctor’s note for either a preexisting condition that’s a
known risk factor or someone who requires a self-quarantine.

“This is an extraordinary time in
history, and as shoppers, those of us who are able – and have the means to
protect ourselves – do want to help those in our community by delivering
groceries and supplies,” the workers stated in a Medium post. “But with Instacart neglecting the basic well-being of its
150,000+ drivers, we believe there is no choice but to not only walk off, but
to raise awareness to the company’s practices.”

In a statement released on Medium over the weekend, Instacart said it is working to ensure its
workers safety.

“We’ve been working over the past
few weeks to maintain a safe environment for shoppers, including providing
disinfecting supplies for in-store shoppers and sanitation stations in
collaboration with retail partners. Given the broader supply chain shortage for
supplies like hand sanitizer, Instacart worked with a third party to
manufacture its own hand sanitizer for shoppers to overcome the existing
inventory delays and global supply chain scarcity, without taking away
resources from healthcare workers,” it said.

Did you know?

The average spot rate for shipping cargo through the air from Hong
Kong to North America reported by the Transportation Air Cargo Index has jumped almost 27% over the past two weeks.
The rate from Shanghai to Europe has jumped over 50% in the same time frame as
capacity tightens and the demand for medical goods expands in the wake of the
COVID-19 pandemic. 


“You just try to
stay away from people. Everybody’s scared. If you aren’t scared, you’re

– Carla Dickey, a 33-year veteran driver, on continuing to drive during the current COVID-19 pandemic

In other news:

CARES bill helps fund transportation projects

The $2.2 trillion federal stimulus
bill, known as the CARES bill and passed last week, includes $31.1 billion for
transportation, including funds for Amtrak and airlines. (AASHTO)

Trucking groups suggest changes to crash study

Several trucking trade groups have
made suggestions to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as it
embarks on a new large truck crash study. (Transport Topics)

Supply chain is suddenly a household world

Americans who didn’t know what a
supply chain was are suddenly aware of the importance of one to their daily
lives. (Bloomberg)

China returns to normalcy

Chinese manufacturers are mostly
back online after a coronavirus shutdown, but whether they will have markets
for their goods is another matter. (Wall Street Journal)

Delivery trucks getting booted

Trucks making critical deliveries
in Charlotte are getting booted by towing companies and forced to pay thousands
of dollars in fees to get their trucks back. (FOX 46 Charlotte)

Final thoughts

FreightWaves’ Alan Adler spoke to
truckers for an article over the weekend. Stories have emerged of drivers
refusing to go into certain areas of the country, while others are asking for
hazard pay. The picture that emerged, though, is one that shows the dedication
truck drivers have to their jobs and ensuring the necessary medical and food
supplies arrive at their destination. The drivers admitted they are scared, but
they are showing true professionalism during this time in need. You can read
the full article here.

Hammer down, everyone!