LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — May Day usually brings thousands of people to downtown Los Angeles for a march and protest for workers’ rights, but that won’t happen this year because of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing.
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Instead, essential workers of large corporations that have become vital lifelines during the pandemic will walk off the job to demand better health and safety conditions, along with hazard pay, on International Worker’s Day, which is observed around the world on May 1.
“We have a unique situation this year. With the COVID virus among us right now, we are always trying to adhere to the mayor’s directives of social distancing,” said LAPD Sgt. Barry Montgomery.
According to organizers, workers from Amazon, Whole Foods, Target and Instacart will call out sick or walk off the job during their lunch breaks Friday.READ MORE: Lakers F LeBron James Fined $15,000 For "Obscene Gesture"
“From my understanding it seems like they are mostly focused on reopening California and moving forward with the economy and people getting their rights back,” said Huntington Beach Police Officer Angela Bennett.
Christian Smalls, who was fired by Amazon after organizing a strike at the online retail giant’s Staten Island warehouse, posted the news release of Friday’s walkout/sickout on Twitter.
“Our companies have failed us during these unprecedented times,” the news release said. “At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic essential workers were subjected to exposure in our workplaces due to lack of PPE, flawed policies and dense safety guidelines. Because of the failings of our employers, many of our fellow employees have contracted this deadly virus and some have died.”
Workers from Amazon, Whole Foods, McDonalds and other companies have been demonstrating sporadically to protest working conditions violating social distancing guidelines, a lack of sick pay for workers who have been exposed to coronavirus or have tested positive, and an lack of protective equipment and cleaning supplies at their workplaces. Nurses have also been protesting the lack of protective equipment and the punitive actions they are hit with when they speak out about it.MORE NEWS: Black Friday Safety: More 'Smash-And-Grab' Robberies Prompt Increase In Mall Security, Pleas To Be Aware While Shopping
Much of the nation is under stay-at-home orders, although many are being lifted and relaxed in states like Florida, Georgia and Texas. However, “essential workers” have been on the job since the outbreak hit the U.S. in January. Those workers include doctors, nurses, first responders, grocery store workers, delivery drivers, agricultural workers and those working in meatpacking plants, many of which are experiencing a rash of coronavirus outbreaks.