Amazon Employees Preparing to Strike Amid Coronavirus Pandemic: 'This Could Be Devastating'

Close to 100 Amazon employees at a Staten Island warehouse are preparing to strike Monday after a colleague was diagnosed with COVID-19 as they join with workers nationwide demanding increased safety measures and hazard pay as they continue to provide services for the public amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"We're very low on masks, we don't have the proper gloves, all we want is for the building to be closed and professionally sanitized," Chris Smalls, management assistant in the warehouse and lead organizer of the strike told NBC's Sam Brock on Monday's TODAY show. "I'm afraid to go to work."

Amazon responded to the network when questioned about the allegations, "These accusations are simply unfounded. ... We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available and changing processes to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances."

Workers for the grocery delivery service Instacart are also threatening a strike just days after the start-up promised to bring on 300,000 extra independent contractors to deal with the increased demand, asking the company to provide personal protective equipment such as disinfectant wipes, hazard pay of $5 per order, and an extended sick pay policy shielding people with preexisting conditions. The company currently offers 2 weeks of paid sick leave should a contractor be diagnosed COVID-19 or placed in individual mandatory isolation or quarantine.

"This could be devastating," Brock said on Monday's TODAY. "Many people use these services specifically because they don't want to go into crowded stores. And it's more than just supermarkets, Instacart has relationships with wholesalers like Costco, pharmacies like CVS — now thousands of workers could walk out on the job this morning."

Instacart Founder and CEO Apoorva Mehta said in a statement on March 23, "Given the continued customer demand we expect over the coming months, we'll be bringing on an additional 300,000 full-service shoppers to support cities nationwide. As more people look for immediate, flexible earnings opportunities during this time, we hope that Instacart can be an additional source of income for those looking to earn while also delivering for the communities in which they live."

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Mehta concluded, "We're incredibly grateful for all the work that each of you do every single day — thank you for your continued dedication."

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