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Workers To Hold Mass Strike On May 1, International Workers' Day

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This day is May 1, International Workers Day. And around the world, it is traditionally a day to celebrate labor. Today workers from Amazon and Walmart and Target and other companies are organizing mass protests. They say the companies aren't doing enough to protect them. NPR's Shannon Bond has more.

SHANNON BOND, BYLINE: The hashtag for today's protest is #EssentialWorkersDay. Those essential workers check you out at the supermarket, pack your online orders, deliver your groceries. They've been thrust onto the front lines. Some have even died from the coronavirus. Now they're demanding more protective equipment, expanded sick leave and better pay by walking off the job and protesting outside stores.

WILLY SOLIS: We're dealing with multibillion-dollar companies here, and we are - we're a very, very small group, individually speaking, when it comes down to trying to address these issues against these companies.

BOND: Willy Solis works for the grocery delivery app Shipt, which is owned by Target. He organized a walkout of Shipt workers in April, one of many protests in recent weeks by delivery, warehouse and retail workers. He says today's strike is about bringing all these different workers together to show how much they have in common.

SOLIS: It seems to be profit over people for the most part, and that is where the disconnect is because, at the end of the day, the workforce and the work laborers are the ones that are helping these companies become who they are.

BOND: As the pandemic puts low-wage work in the spotlight, Solis and other organizers are hoping to seize the public's attention and galvanize a new wave of labor activism across a broad range of companies. They come from traditional organizations like Walmart, FedEx, Whole Foods, Target; the new gig economy apps like Instacart and Shipt; and fast-growing Amazon warehouses. A note - most of these companies are among NPR's sponsors.

It's unclear how many people will participate today. The companies, in response, say they welcome input from workers. They've increased pay and stepped up health and safety measures. However, Amazon accuses labor groups of being irresponsible by making false claims about the company. It says protesters don't represent the majority of workers.

Shannon Bond, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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