Delivery workers at US megachain Target have walked off the job, demanding paid sick leave, personal protective equipment and hazard pay, following wildcat strikes at Amazon, Whole Foods and Instacart.
Staff walked off the job at Target delivery subsidiary Shipt on Tuesday, inspired by a growing number of ‘essential workers’ demanding better working conditions as they risk their lives to serve customers in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Led by a group calling itself “Shipt Shoppers,” the walkout participants have pledged not to return to work until the company tacks on $5 per order to its current “insultingly low” payout system, and expands its paid sick leave policy to include employees who have not tested positive for coronavirus but face heightened risk due to pre-existing health conditions.
Strikers have also demanded that Shipt supply adequate protective equipment and cleaning supplies for all workers, claiming that while those at Target stores are allotted a single pair of gloves and a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer, employees at non-Target stores get nothing. Workers who lose a glove or run out of sanitizer are apparently out of luck. While Shipt Shoppers claims employees have been “sounding the alarm for weeks,” the company has allegedly turned a deaf ear, stepping in only to “add insult to injury” by tweaking payment structures to disadvantage workers further.
The group was inspired to strike by last week’s Amazon warehouse walkouts, as well as a wildcat strike at grocery delivery platform Instacart, Shipt Shoppers organizer Will Solis told the Hill on Monday.
Amazon employees across the country have staged demonstrations for worker safety, with over 50 of the megacorporation’s US facilities reporting coronavirus infections. One group of striking Amazon employees in Staten Island, whose protest attracted international media attention last week, repeated its walkout on Monday, with some workers complaining nothing had changed despite Amazon’s promises to procure masks for its employees and conduct temperature checks.
Amazon has also pledged to promote safety by using AI and machine learning to enforce social distancing between employees. But some see that as a thinly-veiled threat to workers who try to organize, given that Staten Island strike leader Chris Smalls was fired the day of the walkout for allegedly violating distancing rules in a move he slammed as retaliatory.
With more than 10 million newly-unemployed Americans looking for work, companies like Amazon, Shipt, and Instacart have brushed off widespread employee unrest by focusing on the thousands of new hires they’re bringing in to meet surging demand. Sparing a thought for the desperate new arrivals, Shipt Shoppers included in its demands a plea for Target to “stop exploiting its new workers,” accusing the company of “preying upon vulnerable populations who have recently lost their jobs,” throwing new employees into the mix without proper training – let alone safety equipment or reasonable pay.