Some Frontline Workers Plan May 1 Strike: Legal Rights of Essential Employees

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Are companies doing enough to protect workers on the front line?

This International Worker’s Day could be one to remember as essential workers across numerous consumer-facing industries prepare to strike.

Highlighted among numerous companies in pamphlets circling on social media include Instacart, Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Report--which includes Whole Foods, and Target's  (TGT) - Get Report Shipt. Consumers have been asked to boycott these companies.

Though individual demands vary from company to company, striking workers have stressed the need for greater health protections, sick leave, and hazard pay among other asks.

Among the organizers of the strike is Christian Smalls, the Staten Island Amazon employee, who was fired after organizing a walkout. Amazon has since said Smalls violated social distancing policies after numerous warnings.

“This is a matter of life or death, but companies like Amazon have not been transparent or honest with workers, the media, or the public about the number of cases in their facilities,” a statement from strike organizers said.

The statement also accuses Amazon and Whole Foods of failing to fully disclose the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its facilities.

Amazon spokesperson Timothy Carter, in an emailed statement to TheStreet, said,

While we respect people’s right to express themselves, we object to the irresponsible actions of labor groups in spreading misinformation and making false claims about Amazon during this unprecedented health and economic crisis. The statements made are not supported by facts or representative of the majority of the 500,000 Amazon operations employees in the U.S. who are showing up to work to support their communities. What’s true is that masks, temperature checks, hand sanitizer, increased time off, increased pay, and more are standard across our Amazon and Whole Food Market networks already. Our employees are doing incredible work for their communities every day, and we have invested heavily in their health and safety through increased safety measures and the procurement of millions of safety supplies and have invested nearly $700 million in increased pay. Working globally with our teams and third parties we have gone to extreme measures to understand and address this pandemic with more than 150 process changes to-date. We spend every day focused on what else Amazon can do to keep our people and communities safe and healthy. We encourage anyone interested in the facts to compare our overall pay and benefits, as well as our speed in managing this crisis, to other retailers and major employers across the country.

Amazon has noted that plans to spend over $800 million in the first year on COVID-19 safety measures. Amazon has increased pay for hourly workers by $2 an hour.

Target has extended its $2 an hour temporary safe increase until May 30. Target, on its website, says it has committed $300 million "toward wages, bonuses, paid leave, benefits and relief fund contributions."

A Target spokesperson, in an emailed statement to TheStreet, said,

Since early March, we’ve introduced dozens of safety, social distancing and rigorous cleaning measures in our stores across the country. These include cleaning checklanes after each guest transaction and rotating the use of checklanes for deep cleaning, installing Plexiglass partitions at checklanes, actively monitoring, and when needed, metering guest traffic and implementing overhead audio messaging reminders, to name a few. With the safety of our guests and team members in mind, we continue to actively monitor the situation and make adjustments, as needed. For example, given CDC guidance on the role that masks can play in slowing the spread of the coronavirus and to keep our team and guests safe, we recently began requiring that team members wear masks or face coverings when working in our stores. While we take them seriously, the concerns raised are from a very small minority. The vast majority of our more than 340,000 frontline team members have expressed pride in the role they are playing in helping provide for families across the country during this time of need. When concerns have been brought to our attention, we’ve taken additional action, including increasing the frequency of overhead announcements and adding more signage.

Rebecca Rose Woodland, litigator and legal analyst, broke down what rights essential workers have as employees in the video above.

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