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COVID-19

Demanding better COVID-19 protections, workers nationwide plan walkouts

Andy Uhler, David Brancaccio, and Alex Schroeder Mar 30, 2020
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Instacart employee Monica Ortega holds bags of groceries she picked up from a supermarket for delivery to a customer on March 19, 2020. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Demanding better COVID-19 protections, workers nationwide plan walkouts

Andy Uhler, David Brancaccio, and Alex Schroeder Mar 30, 2020
Instacart employee Monica Ortega holds bags of groceries she picked up from a supermarket for delivery to a customer on March 19, 2020. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
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Workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, plan to strike Monday around 12:30 p.m. They’re demanding the facility be shut down and cleaned, and protesting the retail giant’s decision to keep it open after one staffer there tested positive for COVID-19.

Marketplace’s Andy Uhler has been following this story. The following is an edited transcript of his conversation with the Marketplace Morning Report’s David Brancaccio.

David Brancaccio: Amazon’s not the only company facing backlash from workers concerned about safe working conditions, is it?

Andy Uhler: That’s right. Amazon’s scale, and also the surge in people ordering even more stuff online in the era of social distancing means any disruption to their workflow would be a big deal. But a lot of workers are now voicing concern that companies aren’t doing enough to keep them safe from COVID-19. Workers at Instacart, the grocery shopping and delivery service, began a nationwide walkout in the United States today because they say that company isn’t doing enough to protect them or provide hazard pay. Instacart employs more than 150,000 workers across the U.S.

Brancaccio: And an Amazon subsidiary, Whole Foods, is also facing some backlash?

Uhler: Right. Whole Foods workers have a flyer circulating online indicating a plan to conduct a “sick-out” tomorrow. That would mean all employees would use a paid sick day to basically shut down stores. The workers assert that they’re putting themselves at risk by coming into work. They’re demanding three weeks’ paid time off for everyone, along with double hazard pay.

There’s even talk of a general strike in the U.S, calling on workers everywhere to walk off the job. #GeneralStrike began trending on Twitter over the weekend.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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