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Amazon, Whole Foods workers walk out over coronavirus disputes

An independent contractor places Amazon Prime groceries into a cart as she organizes customer deliveries Tuesday inside a Whole Foods Market in Silver Spring, Md. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
An independent contractor places Amazon Prime groceries into a cart as she organizes customer deliveries Tuesday inside a Whole Foods Market in Silver Spring, Md. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

March 31 (UPI) -- Workers at Amazon and Whole Foods Market have turned to walkouts to draw attention to complaints over how their companies' are handling the coronavirus outbreak.

Whole Foods employees called for a "sick-out" worldwide Tuesday to protest conditions and pay, while there is a surge in demand for grocery services.

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In a petition, they demand that Amazon, which owns Whole Foods, do more to protect their workers.

"Whole Foods has temporarily relaxed its strict attendance policy, which means that team members can participate in this act of protest without fear of reprisal," states a web page dedicated to the sick-out. "We encourage all retail workers at other companies to join us in this act of solidarity."

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Organizers call for guaranteed pay for workers in isolation or quarantine, healthcare for part-time employees, coverage for coronavirus testing and treatment costs. They also ask for policy on social distancing and closing locations where a worker has tested positive for the disease.

The effort follows a move by workers for grocery delivery company Instacart, who organized a strike Monday over similar concerns. Shoppers who work for the smartphone app demanded hazard pay, safety gear and cleaning supplies. They also called for sick leave to include workers with pre-existing conditions who are not able to work.

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Monday, Amazon fired an employee who led a walkout at its Staten Island, N.Y., facility, where one at least worker tested positive for the coronavirus.

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New York Attorney General Letitia James called the firing "disgraceful" and said she's considering calling the National Labor Relations Board to investigate.

Amazon, though, said the employee repeatedly violated its social distancing guidelines and put other employees at risk. The company said he was told to stay home for 14 days because of close contact with an infected person.

"Despite that instruction to stay home with pay, he came onsite [Monday], further putting the teams at risk," an Amazon representative said told UPI. This is unacceptable and we have terminated his employment as a result of these multiple safety issues."

Last week, the attorneys general of 14 states and the District of Columbia asked both Amazon and Whole Foods to broaden their sick leave policies due to the ongoing threat of the pandemic.

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Bass Pro Shops marketing manager David Smith (R) carries a box of donated face masks into Mercy Health in Chesterfield, Mo., on May 13. The company is donating 1 million FDA-approved ASTM Level 1 Procedure Face Masks to healthcare workers and first responders working on the front lines of the pandemic. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

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