I’m working for Amazon, but not at a warehouse. I’m a shopper for online orders at Whole Foods in California. I receive orders on a company iPhone, and then I fulfill them and “stage” them for the drivers to pick up and deliver to customers.
Luckily I happen to have my own PPE, as management did not begin to provide personal protective equipment for us at work until April 11. My brother lives in Thailand and he shipped gloves and masks to me. Since April 2, when local health officials urged everyone to wear masks if they have to leave home, most of my coworkers did start wearing them, although the majority used makeshift masks or bandanas until the proper equipment was finally provided more than a week later. We do have to have our temperature taken immediately upon entry to work. I do everything I possibly can to stay safe, including taking my own temperature daily at home, even on days I don’t work.
Coworkers are reacting in different ways, but some are clearly scared and angry. Unfortunately, most have no idea what to do. With no union, very few are open to taking action because they are not protected against retaliation. For this reason, only a couple of coworkers have felt able to talk to me about the possibility of taking action, and one of them has actually quit because of feeling so unsafe due to the threat of the virus and management’s inadequate response. Also, our jobs are gig employment, with workers coming and going at inconsistent times, so you’re never sure whom you are going to see during any given shift.
The strictly enforced social distancing rules have also kept interactions between us to a minimum, and management is watching us more closely than ever. Sadly, most coworkers quietly keep to themselves these days. It is now typical for us shoppers to go through entire shifts without saying a single word to anyone. We are also kept separate from the regular Whole Foods staff, so unified action with them would be very difficult to pull off.
We all got a mass text recently alerting us that a worker at the Whole Foods on Franklin St. in San Francisco, where I often work (including just the other day), tested positive for COVID-19. The message was much less about taking care of us then covering their own asses. They emphasized the fact that they do deep cleanings every day, enforce social distancing, take our temperature, stagger our shifts, etc. Then they gave us the insulting platitude that they “understand that you may be nervous about coming to work” and reminded us of the temporarily relaxed attendance policy. Fortunately, I am not showing any signs of illness at this point. I will continue to monitor myself closely.
Since then, one more worker at a different San Francisco Whole Foods location tested positive. It’s been about a month since I worked at that particular store, so I’m probably safe. However, I still feel like I’m dodging bullets that will keep on firing as long as this pandemic lasts.