As Amazon, Whole Foods and Instacart workers go on strike to demand safer working conditions and benefits, it has become clear that companies are not doing enough to protect their employees

It’s been two weeks since Governor Gavin Newsom issued an indefinite stay-at-home order for the state of California. 

It’s also been about two weeks since people swarmed supermarkets to stock up on necessities in order to avoid grocery runs for the foreseeable future. 

As the dust begins to settle, and people’s pantry stocks begin to dwindle, consumers have turned to online grocery delivery services such as Amazon, Whole Foods and Instacart in order to obtain essential resources. 

Demand for grocery delivery services and food delivery apps like DoorDash, UberEats and Postmates has soared in order to meet the demands of a socially-isolating populace. 

With the current developments of the coronavirus pandemic, you would assume that retailers would at the very least provide their workers with the necessary protective material  —if not higher compensation as well — to continue working in an environment where they are at risk of being exposed to COVID-19 and in turn exposing consumers.  

Imagine my surprise when in an attempt to avoid human contact, I ordered lunch off of UberEats over the weekend and the delivery man handed me my food without any gloves. He individually took out each food item from his delivery bag, and passed them to me through the window of his car, disabibiding any of the safety measures that health officials have advised us to follow. 

Perhaps it was negligence on the delivery man’s behalf. But I don’t think it is coincidental that some workers for the grocery delivery app Instacart began a nationwide strike on Monday to demand improved workplace safety and benefits that include a hazard pay of $5 per order.

On the same day, warehouse employees at an Amazon facility in Staten Island, N.Y., walked out because they feel that the e-commerce company is not doing enough to protect them. On Tuesday, Whole Foods workers across the country executed a work stoppage to demand better protection, including sick pay for those workers who may be sick but haven’t been tested for the coronavirus.

These claims are not unwarranted. Amazon employees in at least 10 U.S. warehouses have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Amazon and local media reports. 

Therefore, it’s surprising that spokespeople for Amazon, Whole Foods and Instacart disputed their employees’ claims, according to the Washington Post, and said they are taking the necessary precautions to protect them. 

“It is disappointing to hear Whole Foods corporate dismiss our actions and our intentions in media statements,” Whole Worker’s National Organizing Committee retaliated in a press release.

They openly called out the corporate leadership of the company which continues to work from home in safety, a luxury that essential workers cannot enjoy. 

It is problematic that during this time of crisis, the essential workers who are putting themselves and their loved ones at risk by going to work are not being treated or protected in the way that they should be. At the very least, this means providing them with the necessary disinfecting tools, sanitation instructions and paid leave should they choose to use it. 

Most importantly, we should not undervalue our dependence on these workers, thanks to whom we have the comfort of self-isolating at home. Companies should not treat their workers with a double-standard, where they expect them to work on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak and not reflect the risk factor in their paychecks.