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A second wave of strikes is expected to hit Friday as essential workers from Whole Foods, Amazon and other large corporations demand better protections amid the pandemic.

Employees at Target, Instacart, Walmart, and FedEx – in addition to Whole Foods and Amazon — plan for a national walk-out on May 1 in response to a lack of health safety inside stores, according to a report by The Intercept. The employees are expected to call out sick or walkout during their lunch breaks.

“We are acting in conjunction with workers at Amazon, Target, Instacart and other companies for International Worker’s Day to show solidarity with other essential workers in our struggle for better protections and benefits in the pandemic,” Daniel Steinbrook, a Whole Foods employee and strike organizer, told The Intercept.

According to the publication, organizers of the strike say the planned walkout comes at a time when Amazon has concealed details about COVID-19 cases at its fulfillment centers around the globe. Earlier this month, GeekWire reported that 30 of Amazon’s e-commerce fulfillment centers had COVID-19 outbreaks. Then on Wednesday, a worker at the Amazon fulfillment center in Tracy died of COVID-19 complications, ABC10 reports.

In a statement, Amazon spokesperson Av Zammit said that the health and safety of the company's 840,000 plus employees is a top priority. Amazon has already added more than 2,000 handwashing stations to its facilities and has provided millions of masks and gloves,  Zammit said. In addition, Amazon expects to pay more than $800 million towards COVID-19 safety measures.

"Our focus remains on protecting associates in our operations network with extensive measures including distributing face masks, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, implementing temperature checks, operating with strict social distancing protocols, and recognizing their contributions with additional pay and leading benefits," Zammit said. "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."

Zammit added that Amazon is spending more than $85 million to redeploy team members who will perform safety-related tasks. It will include social distance ambassadors and team members who will help perform temperature checks at facilities.

There have been 72 worker deaths due to COVID-19 and more than 5,000 workers who have been directly impacted, according to data gathered by the United Food and Commercial Workers International. UFCW data is based on its 1.3 million members who work in grocery, retail, pharmacy, meatpacking, and other essential industries, according to its website.

“These workers never signed up to be first responders in an emergency, but that is exactly what they are now, and they need protections immediately before more lives are needlessly lost,” Marc Perrone, UFCW International President, said in a statement.

Last month, Instacart planned a massive walkout as employees demanded protective gear, expanded paid sick leave and hazard pay of an additional $5 an order, Vice reported. In a similar fashion, Whole Foods employees led a national sickout on March 31 as they demanded “better sanitation equipment and social distancing policies,” among other needs, The Intercept reported.

Now more than ever, grocery store employees are feeling the pressure of the job as they interact with hundreds of customers daily. Last month, Cody Frost, the marketing coordinator at Rainbow Grocery, told SFGATE that on March 15 and March 16 (the day before and the day of the shelter-in-place ordinance), cashiers at Rainbow were ringing up almost six times what they normally would on a weekend. (Rainbow Grocery is not participating in the walk-out).

“The stress level of restocking, the wear on our cashiers, for me, that made my stomach turn. This isn’t a good reason to have business,” Cody Frost, marketing coordinator at Rainbow Grocery, told SFGATE.

Editor's note, May 1, 2020: This article has been updated to include comments from Amazon and includes quotes throughout.

Tessa McLean, digital editor at SFGATE, contributed to this report.

Susana Guerrero is an SFGATE digital reporter. Email: | Twitter: @SusyGuerrero3


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