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by Andrew Stacy
Editor’s note: Today is International Workers’ Day, and Target, Amazon, Instacart, and Shipt essential employees, among others, are staging a Sick Out strike. The following is a letter from an Indianapolis Target worker and organizer with Target Workers’ Unite! that provides a first-hand account of the conditions Target workers face. ANSWER Indiana joins TWU! in calling on everyone to boycott these companies today. Find out more about TWU! here. You can listen to an interview with Andrew Stacy about the action here.
I work at Target and love my job. Most of the people I work with love their jobs as well. However, as this pandemic has continued to spread and escalate, our situation as workers in the retail industry has become more and more precarious.
Policies regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) have varied wildly across stores, and some store managers have even retaliated against employees for providing their own PPE. The corporation eventually announced it would provide masks and gloves to employees as of April 4, but no one received any protective gear until nearly three weeks later. Now we have masks, but are still unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19. Target is “limiting” the number of customers allowed in the store at one time, but the limits are calculated so high that they remain irrelevant, even on our busiest days. It is still business as usual. Moreover, stores are not requiring customers to wear masks, and because almost all masks available to the public only reduce the likelihood of spreading COVID-19 and don’t protect the wearer from exposure, this leaves workers are unprotected.
Over 20 confirmed cases of Target employees diagnosed with COVID-19 have been reported across the nation. As various retail corporations are pushing the public and government leadership to “reopen the economy,” we become more and more exposed to an already very dangerous situation.
The image that Target as a company likes to project is one of an ethical, responsible, “good company” that cares for customers, communities, and employees. Nevertheless, as they have slowly rolled out and boasted loudly about how many policies they have in place to protect us during this crisis, several contradictions become apparent to us essential workers. We are currently receiving a temporary $2 pay increase in response to the crisis. However, in 2017 we were promised a permanent $2 pay increase. The company has offered paid sick leave, but the policies for taking paid sick leave vary from store to store. Many are confused on how hours would be calculated, how to apply, what the requirements are for approval, etc.
Target has dragged its feet on implementing less than the bare minimum to protect us while more than doubling its goal profits based on last year’s sales during this time. Meanwhile, they plan to open up the cafes in the stores nationally before the second week of May, furthering their profit at the expense of our exposure.
Today, on May 1, celebrated around the world as International Workers’ Day, Target, Amazon, Instacart, and Shipt essential employees, along with many others are staging a Sick Out strike. We have not been protected and we are not being compensated fairly. We demand a shutdown of all non-essential departments, hazard pay, an expansion of curbside pickup to limit person-to-person contact, and the suspension of all corrective action related to absences. This is the bare minimum to ensure the safety of workers and customers. Please stand with us and do not not shop on May 1. Help us fight and win!
Andrew Stacy is an organizer with Target Workers Unite!