Amazon might be hiring thousands of workers to handle the surge in online shopping as people across the country are asked to stay home, but it has a very real problem with its existing workforce. Workers are on strike at the company's Staten Island warehouse, citing the need for more protective gear, as well as unsafe working conditions and a lack of adequate pay.
The employees on strike say that the company hasn't been upfront about the number of workers who have tested positive for Covid-19, and are also asking Amazon to close the warehouse for cleaning and provide full pay during that time.
In addition, workers at Whole Foods--which is owned by Amazon--have planned a 'sick-out' for Tuesday. Those employees are asking the company to provide paid leave for all workers who stay home to self-isolate, hazard pay during scheduled shifts, and policies that allow for social distancing between workers and customers. In addition, they are asking for Whole Foods to close any location where an employee tests positive while providing full pay for whatever time period is required to sanitize the store.
Amazon has previously told employees that they can take as much time off as they feel they need during this time, however, they either have to take whatever sick leave they are entitled to, or take unpaid time off.
CNN reported that a company spokesperson says Amazon is committed to "the health and safety of its employees." Furthermore, the company has "implemented daily temperature screenings in our operations sites as an additional preventative measure to support the health and safety of our customers and employees," according to a statement.
The company also confirmed that it has terminated the employee who organized the strike, saying that he had been warned to self-isolate after coming in close contact with an individual who tested positive. "Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, further putting the teams at risk," Amazon's spokesperson said. "This is unacceptable and we have terminated his employment as a result of these multiple safety issues."
Instacart, which has 200,000 contract workers who deliver customer grocery orders, is also facing a strike. Those workers are requesting supplies such as hand sanitizer and gloves, as well as better pay for continuing to work during the crisis.
Sure, a few thousand workers on strike is a big deal, especially when we are increasingly dependent on companies like Amazon for the things we need while we're stuck at home. However, there's a bigger lesson for companies, which is that your team is counting on you to do the right thing just as much as your customers are.
It might be easy to overlook warehouse workers and delivery carriers as not being on the front lines, however, they are literally the people who are keeping our pantries stocked in many cases. Regardless of the work your team is doing, you still owe it to them to be upfront and honest about their safety so they can make the best decisions.
In fact, it's quite simple: Your team should expect nothing less from you than transparency about how coronavirus is impacting your business and the resources and tools they need to safely do their job. That's true whether they're delivering groceries to your customers' front doors, or working at home trying to keep things moving forward. Even at a time as uncertain as this, that's the least your team should be able to count on right now.