Amazon warehouse workers and Instacart delivery agents joined protests Monday to meet security requirements, emphasizing the risks for frontline workers supplying Americans who are largely at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
An estimated 50 to 60 employees took part in a strike in an Amazon labor camp in the Staten Island neighborhood of New York, demanding that the facility be closed and cleaned after a worker tested positive for the corona virus.
"There are positive cases in these buildings where thousands are infected," warehouse worker Christian Smalls wrote on Twitter.
Amazon replied to an AFP request that Smalls made "misleading" statements about the terms and that it should be in quarantine.
"Like all companies dealing with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we are working hard to ensure employee safety while serving communities and the most vulnerable," said an Amazon statement.
"We have taken extreme measures to ensure people's safety."
After the protest, Smalls was officially fired by Amazon.
When asked for a comment by Amazon, AFP confirmed the decision, which resulted from Smalls' failure to respond to the company's request to isolate itself after contacting another employee who was positive COVID-19 had tested.
By attending the demonstration on Monday, he "put the teams at risk. This is unacceptable," said Amazon in a statement, noting that only 15 of the more than 5,000 employees at the site had participated in the protest.
New York Attorney General Letitia James described Smalls 'dismissal as "shameful" and pointed out that the law protects workers' right to protest.
"At a time when so many New Yorkers have problems and are very concerned about their safety, this action was also immoral and inhumane," she said in a statement.
James said she was considering legal recourse and asked the National Labor Relations Board to investigate the incident.
Meanwhile, a group called Gig Workers Collective said that despite new security measures the company announced late Sunday, it continued to call for the independent contractors of Instacart to strike.
"The employees only fulfill their orders when all of our requirements are met," a spokesman told AFP. "This is not just about us, we also want to protect our customers."
It was not immediately clear how many Instacart "buyers", who are independent "gig" workers, took part in the hiring.
Instacart, which recently announced plans to hire around 300,000 people to meet demand for grocery deliveries, said in a statement that it was "fully operational" and that the strike had "no effect."
"We continue to see the highest customer demand in the history of Instacart, and today we have more active buyers on our platform than ever before who choose and deliver food to millions of consumers," said the company in San Francisco, which operates in approximately 5,500 cities in the world USA operates USA and Canada.
– More safety equipment –
The company announced on Sunday that it would provide full-service "buyers" with additional health and safety items and set a "standard" tip based on customers' previous orders.
The working group, the number of which was not known, called the Instacart "a sick joke".
"We had been asking for hand disinfectants for many, many weeks, but apparently the company is able to get some with two working days? Where was that before," the group said in a medium post.
A separate group of workers from Amazon's Whole Foods grocery chain called on Tuesday for a one-day hiatus or "illness" to call for improved health measures.
The group, which called itself "Whole Worker", said it was seeking, among other things, a guaranteed paid vacation for quarantined workers.
With much of the US population blocked, Americans are increasingly relying on the delivery of food and other goods from companies like Amazon.
A NBC News report said Amazon employees in two camps in Southern California have requested that facilities be closed for two weeks for sterilization while the employees are tested for the virus.
Amazon has announced plans to hire another 100,000 people in the U.S., while rival Walmart is trying to add 150,000 more people.