NEW DETAILS: Instacart to provide workers with safety kits

Amazon reportedly under investigation after worker brought up health and safety concerns

Distribution and grocery companies are responding to some employee safety demands during the coronavirus pandemic. Instacart granted its employees safety kits, the company announced Thursday.

Instacart, a grocery company staffed by contracted workers, witnessed a strike Monday, according to Gig Workers Collective. Personal shoppers requested higher hazard pay wages and sanitation supplies.

The company announced it would begin distributing supplies to workers next week, including a reusable cloth face mask, hand sanitizer and a thermometer.

Originally, company leadership responded saying the strike had "absolutely no impact" and actually reported a higher level of operations than normal, according to Axios.

»MORE: Gig worker group threatens strike at Instacart over coronavirus

Meanwhile, the city of New York reportedly is investigating an Amazon warehouse for firing a worker who complained about health and safety conditions.

The employee, Chris Smalls, led a walkout at 12:30 p.m. Monday at the Staten Island warehouse, according to CNN, after several employees reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.

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"The plan is to cease all operations until the building is closed and sanitized," Smalls said in an interview. "We're not asking for much. We're asking the building to be closed and sanitized, and for us to be paid [during that process]."

Amazon may be underreporting positive cases in the New York warehouse, according to Smalls. He thinks five to seven employees likely have the coronavirus, and the facility remains open.

Smalls was fired by Amazon, allegedly because he was supposed to be under quarantine for being exposed to the virus, according to CNN.

Amazon is being joined by its subsidiary Whole Foods grocery stores in planning walkout or “sick out” strikes.

»RELATED: 'Hey, Siri, do I have coronavirus?' | Apple, Amazon launch voice-assisted COVID-19 screening

Vice reporter Lauren Gurley interviewed Whole Foods workers who were planning a sick-out Tuesday to advocate for higher hazard pay and more paid leave options.

“The strike wave is in full swing!” she said.

Whole Foods employees have described the grocery stores during the pandemic as "post-apocalyptic."

“Our shelves are empty. Literally everything is gone except for cheese. Workers are crying and having panic attacks,” a Whole Foods worker in Chicago said.

"You can't tell someone not to go to work if they're sick, if they have to pay their rent in two days," another Whole Foods employee and strike organizer said. "Our Whole Foods staff is on a skeleton crew right now. It's the people who want to be working or the people who have no choice that are showing up. The portion of our workforce with any money in the bank is absent. Given the instability in our workforce, it gives me doubts that safety measures are carried out."

Whole Foods agreed to give all employees a $2-an-hour raise through the end of April, but many fear the company is not doing enough to protect them from the virus.


So far, Whole Food employees have tested positive for coronavirus in California, New York, Louisiana and Illinois, according to Vice.

»MORE: Target, Dollar General, grocery chains offer 'elderly hours' for those vulnerable to coronavirus

Another worker in New England was told by her doctor to self-quarantine because she displayed symptoms but was unable to be tested and thus was denied sick leave, according to her anonymous report.

"COVID-19 is a very real threat to the safety of our workforce and customers,"  the sick-out organizer Whole Worker wrote in a statement. "We cannot wait for politicians, institutions, or our own management to step in to protect us."

The attorney general of Massachusetts sent a letter to Amazon and Whole Foods CEOs John Mackey and Jeff Bezos, on behalf of Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.

"If our understanding of the Companies' current COVID-19 sick leave policies is correct, these policies are inconsistent with these [CDC] recommendations. By limiting paid sick leave to only those employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have been placed into quarantine, the Companies are placing their other employees, their customers, and the public at large at significant risk of exposure to COVID-19." — letter from attorneys general

Trader Joe’s union posted on Twitter to deny a rumor circulating that its members would go on a “sickout” strike Friday.

“Workers who participate without collective organizing (and without coordinating with us) put themselves at risk of termination,” they warned. “Be smart. Stay safe.”

»MORE: How to grocery shop safely amid coronavirus