Workers call for hazard pay, sick days ahead of holiday shopping season

Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Workers at Amazon, Walmart, Petco and PetSmart are calling on their employers to increase hazard pay as part of a platform to improve pandemic safety protocols ahead of the holiday shopping season.

The United for Respect workers advocacy group on Monday introduced a Five to Survive platform on behalf of its members, urging the four conglomerates to provide a minimum of $5 an hour hazard pay, increase paid sick leave to 14 days, implement virus safety measures and include workers in safety protocol decision-making while protecting them from retaliation.


"When the CDC is saying that Americans should not gather our families for Thanksgiving dinner, I do not believe that Walmart should be trying to entice crowds into our stores on Black Friday, and risk a Walmart super-spreader event," Melissa Love, a Walmart associate in California, told reporters in a press call on Monday.

According to a report from United for Respect and the Institute for Policy Studies released earlier this month, the wealth of U.S. billionaires increased by nearly $1 trillion since mid-March.

The report said during that time frame the wealth of Walmart's three owners climbed by a combined $48 billion while offering their employees zero hazard pay and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezo's wealth increased by $70 billion while 20,000 of his employees were infected with COVID-19.


Concerning BC Partners, which owns PetSmart, the report said it benefited from being labeled an essential business but still furloughed and then fired U.S. workers and CVC Capital Partners, which owns Petco, has recently announced plans to take the company public with a valuation of $6 billion.

"Amazon is acting like the pandemic is over," Courtenay Brown, an Amazon Fresh worker in New Jersey, said. "Amazon calls us heroes in their commercials, they call us essential but it feels like we are expendable."

The left-leaning think tank the Brookings Institution also recently released a report of analysis on 13 of the 20 biggest U.S. retail companies finding that they earned on average an extra $16.9 billion in profit in 2020 compared to a year earlier while raising pay for their frontline workers by an average of $1.11 per hour since the start of the pandemic.

"At most of the biggest retail companies in America, the gap between the struggles and sacrifices of low-wage frontline workers and the wealth they create for they employers and shareholders is wider than ever," the report said.

The report said that profits at Amazon increased by 53% compared to last year while profits at Walmart were up 45% in the same time frame while their workers earned an extra $0.95 and $0.63 an hour, respectively.


"Amazon and Walmart could have quadrupled the hazard pay they gave their frontline workers and still earned more profit than the previous year," it said.

United for Respect said its members in retail and e-commerce industry risk exposure to the coronavirus every day but while their work is essential their employers have not prioritized their health.

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