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Workers Gear Up for Major May Day Strike in Pushback Against Unsafe Conditions Amid Pandemic

One organizer explained that the goal is to "push back with large numbers against the right-wing groups that want to risk our lives by reopening the economy."

Amazon employees hold a protest and walkout over conditions at the company's Staten Island distribution facility on March 30, 2020 in New York City.

Amazon employees hold a protest and walkout over conditions at the company's Staten Island distribution facility on March 30, 2020 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Workers at some of the nation's biggest companies including Amazon and Target are preparing to symbolically lock arms Friday for a May 1 strike and demand better protections on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the lead organizers of the action, Motherboard reported Wednesday, is Chris Smalls, the Amazon worker who was fired last month from his job at a fulfillment center in Staten Island after organizing a protest.

"We formed an alliance between a bunch of different companies because we all have one common goal which is to save the lives of workers and communities," Smalls told Motherboard.

"Right now isn't the time to open up the economy," Smalls added. "Amazon is a breeding ground [for this virus] which is spreading right now through multiple facilities."

Adam Ryan, who works at a Target store in Virgina, is another lead organizer of the May Day action. He explained to Motherboard that the goal of the strike is "to shut down industry across the board and push back with large numbers against the right-wing groups that want to risk our lives by reopening the economy."

As Motherboard reported:

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While the mass strike action might not be enough to shut down society, the collective action certainly echoes the calls for a general strike—a coordinated work stoppage across businesses and industries in pursuit of a common goal—the likes of which have not been seen in the United States since World War II.

The workers are demanding their profitable employers provide increased pay and paid leave, health insurance for all workers, and for Covid-19 affected stores to be shut. The workers are also calling on customers to show solidarity by not shopping at the stores on May 1, according to a flier shared on social media.

The Intercept also reported on the upcoming strike, with Daniel Medina writing Tuesday:

The May 1 strike is the latest in a wave of actions led by union and nonunion front-line workers. Last month, Amazon workers in New York City and more than 10,000 Instacart workers across the country staged a walkout. Whole Foods employees led a national sickout on March 31, while upwards of 800 workers skipped their shifts at a Colorado meatpacking plant as coronavirus cases were confirmed among employees. Sanitation workers in Pittsburgh and bus drivers in Detroit both staged wildcat strikes.

"These workers have been exploited so shamelessly for so long by these companies while performing incredibly important but largely invisible labor," said Stephen Brier, a labor historian and professor at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. "All of a sudden, they’re deemed essential workers in a pandemic, giving them tremendous leverage and power if they organize collectively.”

"May 1 is a celebration of working people around the world," Margaret Kimberley wrote Wednesday at Black Agenda Report. "It is the perfect moment to begin the fight for economic justice which has accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic."

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