U.S. retailers have introduced their traditional Black Friday and Christmas sales, and shoppers crave big savings, but this year’s spending bonus potentially worsens occupational and health safety conditions for hundreds of thousands of workers in warehouses that carry all consumer goods.
During the coronavirus epidemic, core workers in grocery stores, retail and warehouses handling online orders struggled with coronavirus epidemics in the workplace, increased workloads and withdrew risk premiums for months.
Workers expect the holiday shopping season to exacerbate these conditions, as coronavirus cases in the U.S. have risen to around 200,000 cases a day and the daily mortality rate has reached numbers not seen since the economic downturn earlier this year.
Despite the pandemic and restrictions on personal shopping, consumer spending in the U.S. is projected to increase last year’s holiday shopping season by 1% and 1.5% between November and January 2021, according to Deloitte’s annual holiday retail forecast. Online shopping is expected to grow dramatically, with projections falling between $ 182 billion and $ 196 billion from e-commerce holiday sales.
This is probably good news for retail, but not for employees.
Courtenay Brown, who works at Amazon Fresh’s performance center in Newark, New Jersey, explained that the coronavirus epidemic has already exacerbated high demand and workloads for Thanksgiving and holiday shopping, while workers continue to fall ill with coronavirus. and are bound to face them. overtime shifts.
“We’re experiencing the turkey apocalypse right now,” Brown said. – Chaos. They do more and more every day. The amount of stress that everyone suffers is ridiculous. “
Brown, who is also organizing a call for large retailers at United for Respect to set a $ 5 risk premium for core employees, criticized Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos for his decision to withdraw his $ 2 hourly wage. Amazon employees in June 2020, despite the continuing risk of coronavirus exposure, and Amazon’s huge profits due to the pandemic show significant growth for Amazon during the holiday shopping season.
“A pandemic literally makes one of the world’s most selfish, disgusting people even richer. Even if they did not want to compensate us, he could have done so much for the country with the money he gained, ”he added.
Many large U.S. retailers made huge profits during the pandemic, but shared only a small of these profits with workers in the form of additional compensation.
A report by the Brookings Institution found Amazon and Walmart to be the least generous of the employees of the major U.S. retailers analyzed in the report. Despite a cumulative surplus of $ 10.9 billion compared to 2019, Amazon paid employees an average of $ 0.95 per hour in coronavirus compensation and Walmart paid $ 0.63 per hour.
Walmart owners Rob, Jim and Alice Walton their net worth rose $ 48 billion at the time of the epidemic. Amazon Bezos has increased its assets by 62% since the start of the epidemic on November 17 to $ 188.3 billion.
A California cashier, Walmart, who asked for his anonymity for fear of retaliation, complained that employees had to use their own paid holidays to compensate for Thanksgiving, for which Walmart closed its stores where it had stayed in previous years. is open and has not paid leave to employees
“While this is the first Thanksgiving we’ve been holding for years, Walmart automatically covers the day from our paid time off, or it stretches from sick days, or the day is unpaid if it’s not enough,” they said.
“We lost a lot of people, so the burden of our work tripled,” said a Walmart employee in North Carolina. “We can’t keep up, so we have to do everything we can as quickly as possible, with the impossible expectations of managers and customers.”
Amazon-owned Whole Foods employees say working conditions have deteriorated during the pandemic and the risks posed by the coronavirus are even greater as the two-hour $ 2 compensation was withdrawn in June 2020. As the holidays approached, stores became even more busy handling holiday orders, while cases of coronavirus continued to occur among staff.
“The circumstances are even more dangerous as all customers who refuse to wear a mask have been released and the blocking restrictions have been lifted. The store has a larger number of customers and Amazon Prime customers. ”Said a Whole Foods employee in Birmingham, Michigan, who asked for anonymity.
A Whole Foods employee in New Orleans noted that morale in the pandemic has been low, even more so since risk premiums have been abolished and departments are understaffed, but more work is expected to be done during the holidays.
“Top management is forcing classes to do more than they are capable of for the holidays because of the bowls, meals and special orders, but everyone was aware of the strain on them,” they said.
An Oklahoma employee at Target explained that team members cannot work more than 40 hours a week, but due to increased demand, the holiday season is the best schedule they get throughout the year. Her business is nervous about work with several cases of coronavirus and an influx of seasonal employees.
– He was very busy. Sometimes people are scheduled for six, seven or eight days in a row until they hit 40 hours, ”they said. “New seasonal team members receive very little training and are sent out without really knowing how to do their assigned work, which is frustrating, and they won’t even tell you which department has the coronavirus case when we report that we know if we should test or not. “