Instacart, Amazon Workers Protest Coronavirus Response


Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. March 30, 2020
Amazon warehouse

​Workers at Instacart and Amazon went on strike on March 30 over the companies' response to the pandemic, with a "sick out" planned at Amazon for March 31. The Instacart workers called for hazard pay—which President Donald Trump has said he is considering for health care workers—and more workplace protections. The Instacart strike was nationwide, while the Amazon protest was solely for Staten Island, N.Y., warehouse employees. We've gathered news on the walkouts from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets.

Nationwide Strike

Workers at Instacart, a food-delivery service, said they won't accept orders until the company provides hazard pay of an additional $5 an order; hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and soap; and expanded paid leave to cover workers with pre-existing conditions who have been told by health care professionals not to work. A company official said, "The health and safety of our entire community—shoppers, customers and employees—is our first priority." Instacart recently announced it will hire 300,000 more gig workers in the next three months, more than doubling its workforce. At least 150,000 workers participated in the strike.

(Vice and USA Today)

Trump Considers Hazard Pay for Health Care Workers

Trump said on March 30 that he is considering hazard pay—additional money for performing dangerous work—for health care workers. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also said hazard pay will be in the next coronavirus bill before Congress. House Democrats have called for such compensation in the next coronavirus legislation as well.

(U.S. News & World Report and Government Executive)

Amazon Workers Protest

Approximately 100 Amazon workers planned to leave a Staten Island warehouse March 30 following positive tests for colleagues. "How many cases [have] we got? Ten!" Protestors chanted. The workers demanded that the company close the facility for cleaning and pay employees while it's shut. A company spokesperson said the company has increased the frequency and intensity of deep-cleaning its facilities. The spokesperson also said that a lead protester "is alleging many misleading things in his statements. … He is, in fact, on a 14-day self-quarantine requested by Amazon to stay home with full pay." The company has temporarily raised its pay by $2 an hour through April. 

(CNBC, NPR and USA Today)

Amazon Fires Protester

Amazon fired a lead protester in the Staten Island, N.Y., walkout, saying he should have been in quarantine. The employee had close contact with a colleague who had COVID-19 and was asked to stay home with pay for 14 days, a measure the company is taking globally, a spokeswoman said. "Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite today, March 30, putting the teams at risk," she said. But the fired employee said he was being singled out.


Perdue Farms Employees Leave Production Line

Several Perdue Farms employees walked off a production line in Perry, Ga., March 23, saying they were upset about working more hours without more pay during the coronavirus pandemic. A company spokesman said, "As always, our hourly production associates are eligible for overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours per week" and noted that the company was providing employees with free chicken products.


[SHRM members-only toolkit: Preparing for the Possibility of Union Organizing]

Comply with NLRA During Pandemic

Employers need to comply with the National Labor Relations Act, including the "concerted activity" protections that apply to nonunionized and unionized employers, during the coronavirus pandemic. Even nonunionized workers who band together can't be disciplined or discriminated against based on protected concerted activity, which can include refusing to come to work for safety reasons.

(SHRM Online)

Provide input as the DOL develops further guidance on the FFCRA. Participate online at through April 10—an extended deadline.


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