Episode 30: Get Delivery or Die Trying

In the thirtieth episode of The Latest, we look at how labor strikes at Amazon, Instacart, and Whole Foods during a global pandemic might slow down our La Croix deliveries. Medical writer and immunology expert Shaniya Khan Wojtas, PhD, joins the program for this week’s O.J. Simpson Twitter Update.

The Latest with Greg Ott
The Latest with Greg Ott
Episode 30: Get Delivery or Die Trying
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Transcript

Those voices are discussing retail, warehouse, and gig workers, who are risking their safety during a global pandemic to distribute critical essentials like Lemon La Croix, Xbox games, and Domino’s Pizza. 

Online or offline, staffers throughout the retail supply chain are taking this global health threat as seriously as possible, like a diligent Best Buy blue shirt who packs a pen knife on Black Friday.

On Monday, Instacart workers went on strike to demand access to paid sick leave and hazard pay of $5 per order, barely making up for the tip you originally left but removed two days after the groceries were delivered.

At Whole Foods, employees staged a global “sick out” to demand that stores shut down should any employee test positive for the virus, or, worse, consume something that’s not organic or grass-fed. 

And in New York, Amazon warehouse workers walked off the job to demand the deep cleaning of a fulfillment center in Staten Island, which would mark the first time any portion of Staten Island has been sanitized. 

That’s not to say corporations are leaving its workers completely out to dry.

Amazon established a $25 million fund where contractors can apply for an individual grant of up to $5,000, treating its network of couriers like grad students competing to finance plays that nobody wants to watch. 

For those diagnosed with COVID-19, Uber is offering its drivers up to 14 days of “financial assistance,” a program funded by cashing in its strategic reserve of phones left in backseats.

And to ensure workers are healthy, Walmart will begin conducting mandatory temperature checks, sending home anyone that clocks above 100. It’s a drastic shift in policy, especially considering the person greeting you at a Walmart is well over 100. 

I’ve complained about things like the gig economy before, but I’m not trying to trash business’ response to this pandemic — even though it’s quite easy to do.  

Weeks ago, the White House claimed that stores like Target and Walmart were opening drive-thru COVID-19 testing centers, but out of a combined 30,000 retail locations throughout the country, only five testing sites have emerged. It’s like they’re taking their cues from the Tickle-Me-Elmo craze — they say they’re available, but good luck tracking one down. 

And despite the closure of non-essential businesses, Hobby Lobby is defying orders and re-opening retail locations because its CEO believes “God will guide us through this storm,” who seems to be relying on the autopilot in the 737 Max. 

My point is that we shouldn’t have to depend on the generosity of these businesses to provide basic needs to their workforce.

The USA practically stands alone as a country without nationwide policies for paid time off, health insurance, or restrictions on playing the song “Love Shack” in public spaces. 

It’s nice that the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill will extend unemployment benefits to gig workers, but what happens the next time a Lyft driver ends up without work and there’s no global pandemic to blame? 

This virus is revealing a lot about people right now — mostly, based on teleconferences, that nobody bothers to paint or wallpaper their house anymore — but when this event eventually subsides, and people stop singing Bon Jovi songs from their balcony to scare away the bats, I hope people don’t forget that strange, weird time when it was kind of trendy to lend a helping hand.