Some local grocery and retail workers are participating in a national protest calling for safer working conditions and increased pay as they continue to work amid the coronavirus pandemic.
To convey their concerns, they plan to call out of work Friday as part of a nationwide employee "sickout" involving Target and Whole Foods, as well as Amazon, Instacart, FedEx and Walmart.
The grassroots effort is asking customers to boycott those companies' local stores and services Friday to coincide with International Workers' Day, also known as May Day, which in a normal year is marked by massive labor rights demonstrations in major cities.
“Statements made by this group misrepresent the full extent of Whole Foods Market’s actions in response to this crisis and do not represent the collective voice of our more than 95,000 Team Members," a Whole Foods spokesperson said.
Whole Foods has given workers pay raises and increased benefits, enhanced cleaning protocols, social distancing and crowd control measures and require temperature screenings and face masks for in-store workers, according to the spokesperson.
"In addition to providing face masks, we offer gloves and personal face shields for added protection," the spokesperson said. "We are auditing all of these practices on a daily basis to help protect the health and safety of our Team Members, which remains our highest priority.”
Workers from a Whole Foods store in Boston's South End and a number of Massachusetts grocery stores protested earlier this month to demand "adequate protections" for employees amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Stop & Shop, Trader Joe's and Shaw's employees were also involved in the protest, arguing that larger corporations have been slow to take the steps needed to create social distancing within stores.
The latest example of a wave of worker activism during the coronavirus crisis comes after 41 workers at a Walmart in Worcester tested positive and the location was shutdown.