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Amazon, Walmart Staff Push for Paid Leave, More Protections

Spencer Soper and Matt Day
·3 mins read

(Bloomberg) -- A group of workers from Walmart Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and other big retailers demanded paid leave for those affected by the coronavirus outbreak and better protective measures from their employers.

The group, United for Respect, held a media call Friday with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who said 80% of retail employees have been left out of federal relief packages that include paid sick time. “Grocery and retail workers are the lifeblood of the American economy and we need to support them,” the former Democratic presidential candidate said.

Monica Moody, a 22-year-old Amazon warehouse worker near Charlotte, North Carolina, said she and her fellow employees don’t have adequate protective gear or sufficient time to wash their hands during their shifts. She argued that the warehouse should close temporarily to be sanitized.

“People are probably coming to work sick. They might not even know it,” Moody said. “We are all scared of getting sick at the facility, and bringing it home to the people we love.”

Also on Friday, four Democratic senators, led by Cory Booker of New Jersey, wrote Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos asking that the company implement more aggressive safety measures and offer more hazard pay to its employees. The letter cited news reports this week in which workers at the front lines of Amazon’s logistics network raised concerns they didn’t have the time or resources to protect themselves as they helped speed packages to customer doorsteps.

“We write today to strongly urge you to prioritize the health, safety and well-being of your employees who are also our constituents, friends, family, and neighbors,” said the letter, which requested a response by Thursday.

Amazon said it is taking “extreme measures to keep people safe.”

“Our employees are heroes fighting for their communities and helping people get critical items they need in this crisis,” the company said in a statement. “It is not easy as supplies are limited, but we are working hard to keep employees safe while serving communities and the most vulnerable.”

Amazon paid workers through a temporary closing of a delivery station in Queens where a warehouse worker tested positive for Covid-19. Amazon has also announced it would provide two weeks pay for any worker diagnosed with Covid-19, the illness sparked by the virus, or quarantined because of it. And the company raised its hourly pay rate by $2 per hour through April.

A group of Amazon delivery drivers in California said they were given just a single wipe to clean vans at the start of their shifts this week.

Walmart, on its website, said it adjusted store hours so the sites can be cleaned and sanitized and is offering a $300 cash bonus to full-time workers and $150 for part-time workers.

(Updates with Amazon statement in seventh paragraph.)

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