Employees at Whole Foods are reportedly planning to strike on Tuesday over a lack of protections in the face of the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. VICE reports that workers will perform a "sick out," or call in sick en masse, in order to demand paid leave, free coronavirus testing, and hazard pay.
Whole Foods isn't the only company facing pressure from employees who feel they're being put at risk of exposure by being kept at work. Shoppers for Instacart stopped fulfilling orders today with similar demands, and warehouse workers at an Amazon facility in Staten Island, New York have been walking out as NPR reports that the warehouse remains open despite several workers testing positive for coronavirus.
We want people isolating whenever possible — The demands Whole Foods employees are making on their employer — and its parent company Amazon — affect not only them but everyone they come into contact with, including customers. That's because employees who don't receive paid sick leave may continue going to work even if they feel sick so that they can pay their bills. If workers are given paid sick leave they can isolate at home, as is necessary to reduce the spread of coronavirus and keep the growing demand for medical resources from those affected from overwhelming the U.S. medical system.
Amazon hasn't stepped up to the plate — Unfortunately for workers at Whole Foods, Amazon has been reluctant to offer much assistance. The company — worth almost a trillion dollars — only began offering paid sick leave to warehouse workers in Chicago after it was ordered to. In it's defense, Amazon has launched a $25 million relief fund to assist its low-wage employees... but then it's also casually asked the public to contribute to the fund.
“COVID-19 is a very real threat to the safety of our workforce and customers,” says Whole Worker, the group that is organizing the Whole Foods strike. “We cannot wait for politicians, institutions, or our own management to step in to protect us.”