LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — May Day usually brings thousands of people to downtown Los Angeles for a march and protest for workers’ rights, but that won’t happen this year because of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing.
Instead, essential workers of large corporations that have become vital lifelines during the pandemic will walk off the job to demand better health and safety conditions, along with hazard pay, on International Worker’s Day, which is observed around the world on May 1.
According to organizers, workers from Amazon, Whole Foods, Target and Instacart will call out sick or walk off the job during their lunch breaks Friday.
Christian Smalls, who was fired by Amazon after organizing a strike at the online retail giant’s Staten Island warehouse, posted the news release of Friday’s walkout/sickout on Twitter.
“Our companies have failed us during these unprecedented times,” the news release said. “At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic essential workers were subjected to exposure in our workplaces due to lack of PPE, flawed policies and dense safety guidelines. Because of the failings of our employers, many of our fellow employees have contracted this deadly virus and some have died.”
Workers from Amazon, Whole Foods, McDonalds and other companies have been demonstrating sporadically to protest working conditions violating social distancing guidelines, a lack of sick pay for workers who have been exposed to coronavirus or have tested positive, and an lack of protective equipment and cleaning supplies at their workplaces. Nurses have also been protesting the lack of protective equipment and the punitive actions they are hit with when they speak out about it.
Much of the nation is under stay-at-home orders, although many are being lifted and relaxed in states like Florida, Georgia and Texas. However, “essential workers” have been on the job since the outbreak hit the U.S. in January. Those workers include doctors, nurses, first responders, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, agricultural workers and those working in meatpacking plants, many of which are experiencing a rash of coronavirus outbreaks.