Labor actions

Whole Foods, warehouse workers demand time off, hazard pay

Amazon warehouse workers are walking out and Whole Foods workers are striking

In solidarity with warehouse workers, tech workers at Amazon are demanding the company provide fully paid family leave for people who miss work, provide fully paid leave to all Amazon workers, close facilities immediately following contamination, ensure full paid leave for workers whose jobs are impacted by such closures and ensure everyone has unlimited time to take care of their health.

“Recognizing the urgency of the moment, tech workers are going beyond asking Amazon to take action and are pledging not to work for Amazon if it fails to act,” the DC Tech Workers Coalition wrote in a petition. “We also pledge to ask organizations in our communities such as universities and conferences to not accept Amazon as a sponsor or participant in events.”

Meanwhile, workers at Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, are organizing a “sick out” strike tomorrow to demand better protections on the job, Vice reports.

According to Vice, Whole Foods workers will call in sick tomorrow and demand paid sick leave for those who stay at home or self-quarantine during the pandemic. They will also demand free coronavirus testing for employees and hazard pay.

Led by group Whole Worker, the sick-out was originally planned for May 1, but was moved up in response to reports that workers have started getting sick and testing positive for COVID-19.

“As this situation has progressed, our fundamental needs as workers have become more urgent,” the group wrote on its campaign page. “COVID-19 poses a very real threat to the safety of our workforce and our customers. We cannot wait for politicians, institutions, or our own management to step in to protect us.”

Whole Worker is a group of Whole Foods team members who are not officially unionized, given Amazon’s (Whole Foods’s parent company) long history of union busting. In a petition, they call on all Whole Foods employees to not go to work on March 31, and note that “Whole Foods has temporarily relaxed its strict attendance policy, which means that team members can participate in this act of protest without fear of reprisal.” They are staging the “sick out” in response to the lack of protections they feel management has given them, which put both workers and customers at risk.

Local coverage:

Whole Foods workers organizing ‘global sickout’ on Tuesday

Boycott Amazon Campaign Labor actions

Whole Foods Wants Workers to Donate Sick Leave to Ailing Co-Workers

We guess this is part of the way HOW Jeff Bezos got to be the world’s richest man. And this is at a time when Amazon is making money hand over fist because of the shift to remote shopping and goods delivery due to the physical distancing and stay-at-home orders.–20200315-0007.html

“With the amount Jeff Bezos makes in one day, he could shut stores down and pay employees to stay safe,” a former employee said.

Employees of Whole Foods, which is owned by the richest person on the planet Jeff Bezos, were asked to give their own accumulated paid sick days to their co-workers forced to stop working because of the new coronavirus pandemic.

The executives of the grocery chain proposed employees to do so knowing the company is able to give its workers unlimited paid sick leave during what has been declared a national emergency in the United States (U.S.).

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said in an email sent Wednesday to staffers that one of the options available to face the coronavirus crisis was to put their “paid time off” (PTO) days into a pool that other workers could take from.

“Team Members who have a medical emergency or death in their immediate family can receive donated PTO hours, not only from Team Members in their own location but also from Team Members across the country,” Mackey wrote in the email.

“As a subsidiary of Amazon, the world’s biggest company, Whole Foods could easily afford to pay its hourly employees for sick days taken during the coronavirus outbreak without breaking the bank. Instead, the company has put the onus back on workers, and they’re not happy about it,” Journalist Lauren Kaori Gurley, who broke the story for Motherboard, said.

Labor actions

Strikes at Amazon Warehouses in France

Image: Révolution

Strikes have broken out in several Amazon warehouses in France, to demand the closure of the sites and full payment of wages. Gregory Lavainne, activist and delegate from the UNSA trade union on the ORY1 site in Saran (close to Orléans), explains the situation.

Read the original in French

Révolution: How did the mobilization start?

Gregory Lavainne: After Macron’s first televised address, on Thursday 12 March, we asked the site management what they were planning on doing to ensure the safety of the workers. They just answered that they were going to apply the government’s recommendations.

Concretely, the managers asked the workers to respect the 1-meter distancing. But in reality, this is impossible to maintain: we cross paths with each other all the time in our work, and often at less than 1 meter’s distance.

They also reorganized breaks, so that there would only be 100 of us taking a break at the same time, rather than 200. They asked us to only take up one out of two chairs in the break room. Basically, a shoddy patch-up job.

What did you reply and demand?

We said that this wasn’t going far enough. We demanded that there be hand sanitizer gel available for all workers. They had put some in, but it quickly ran out. So they put in a kind of “antibacterial mousse” and said that would do the job. We demanded gel but they said they couldn’t find any. That’s their problem, not ours! They found some since then, but we fear that it won’t last and that they’re going to stick us with the mousse again.

We also demanded that all workers have their temperature taken when they come into the warehouse, when they go through the metal detectors. We know this isn’t enough, since you can be contagious without having a fever. But at least those who have a fever won’t come onto the site.

Instead of this, when a worker gets sick, management just sends them home and declares it a “flu-like condition”.

Amazon factory flickrStrikes have broken out in several Amazon warehouses in France, to demand the closure of the sites and full payment of wages / Image: Flickr, Álvaro Ibáñez

Finally, we asked for gloves and FFP2 masks for all workers who wanted to wear them.

We asked for all of this formally, via email. But we received no answer. Complete silence.

On the other hand, we found out that management and HR staff are now mostly working from home. It’s always up to the same people, ordinary people, to take all the risks.

When did you demand the closure of the site?

After Macron’s second speech, on Monday evening. We formed a joint union assembly and called on the workers to go on strike on Wednesday to demand the closure of the warehouse and full payment of the workers’ wages.

The strike was well attended: 130 strikers in the morning, 150 in the afternoon. We saw that the majority of the workers were relieved!

Then, the manager told us that it was impossible to close the site, that she couldn’t make that decision, that it would have to be decided by the French management of Amazon or even at the Seattle headquarters in the USA. Even in Spain and in Italy, where there were confirmed cases of contagion in some warehouses, they didn’t close them. And we are still getting delivery pallets from Spain and Italy.

We put up some posters on the walls of the warehouse on Wednesday, on which we wrote: “As Seattle counts its dollars, Europe buries its dead”.

Usually, on the site, management never stops reminding us: “safety first!”. But now we are seeing that that’s rubbish: in reality it’s “profits first!”.

The managers of Amazon have also let it be known that they would fight against anyone exercising their right to refuse work on health and safety grounds (droit de retrait) by docking their pay.

And now?

We are still demanding the closure of the warehouse and full payment of wages. And in terms of immediate actions, we have taken over the inspection of the work. We filed to declare “Grave and imminent danger” (a French labour law provision that allows workers to refuse work on health and safety grounds). An investigation has been opened. We are demanding the implementation of the measures I listed: FFP2 masks, gel, gloves, taking of temperature, and others: water bottles instead of water fountains; cutting the number of workers on each shift in half, with partial unemployment measures; a systematic disinfection of the places most susceptible to disease transmission. All that said, the only really effective measure would be to close the site. And that’s what we are going to keep fighting for.

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