UFR Leaders: We Need Safety and $5 an hour, Not PR and Poverty Wages.

Nationwide — Last week, retail associates with United For Respect launched the Five to Survive pandemic platform demanding retail giants like Walmart, Amazon, Petco and PetSmart immediately provide pandemic protections, including $5/hr in increased pay, as the holiday rush ensues amidst a record-breaking spike of COVID-19 cases. Days later, Amazon and Walmart announced a “thank you” cash bonus for associates, while both Petco and PetSmart quietly offered some employees meager payouts. 

Cynthia ‘Cyndi’ Murray, a leader with United for Respect and Walmart associate of 20 years, released the following statement:

“We need Five to Survive, not cents on the dollar to risk our lives. United for Respect has advocated for $5/hr essential pay for the whole pandemic, and now Walmart and Amazon are offering up pennies in the midst of this crisis, seemingly to help their image. Behind the billion-dollar headlines, these ‘rewards’ amount to nothing more than a PR ploy, a bandaid on a bullet wound as frontline retail associates, warehouse workers, delivery drivers and others face the pandemic and the holiday rush, head-on. Even after two decades with Walmart, I’m still paid less than $15 an hour. 

“While associates like me are working on the front lines of this dangerous pandemic, making sure customers have groceries, pharmacies, home goods, and more, Walmart has slow-walked its COVID-19 response and keeps secrets about virus outbreaks in our stores. The Walton family has added $48 billion to their family fortune as we’ve risked our lives, and Walmart now offers us an insulting gesture of .63 cents an hour. It’s just wrong. At Amazon, hazard pay was canceled back in June, but the virus didn’t go away! Covid is still here and getting worse. At Petco and PetSmart, workers are struggling to keep up with increased customer needs and risking virus exposure. 

“That’s why we’re telling all retailers: We need Five to Survive. Pay us like we’re the essential workers you claim to celebrate on TV ads. Offer us a seat at the table to shape solutions that will keep the workers in stores and supply chains safe, and help stop the spread of this dangerous virus.”

Background on Holiday Bonuses and Five to Survive

This week, Amazon and Walmart announced they would disperse $500 and $700 million in holiday bonuses to the millions of people they employ, respectively, to show “appreciation” and “gratitude,” for the “vital role” associates have served during this pandemic. While both Walmart and Amazon touted these “billions” in bonuses to frontline employees, the cumulative bonus amounts for the duration of the pandemic are equal to a raise of $0.63/hour at Walmart and $0.95/hour at Amazon, according to a report by the Brookings Institution. Amazon canceled its $2/hour hazard pay policy in June, while Walmart, Petco, and PetSmart never offered it at all. 

In contrast, a recent report from Institute for Policy Studies, United for Respect, and Bargaining for the Common Good found that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and the Walton family have raked in personal wealth of $188.3 billion and $48 billion since March, dwarfing the measly bonuses extended to frontline associates risking their lives to serve customers. The report found that billionaire wealth in general has surged by $1 trillion since the pandemic began. The Walton family currently makes more money in one minute than Walmart workers do in an entire year.

At least 20,000 Amazon employees have been infected with COVID-19, while Walmart has not released data, leading associates with United for Respect to track thousands of cases nationwide on their own; at least 22 Walmart associates are known to have died as a result of COVID-19 infection.

In addition to hazard pay of $5 an hour, United for Respect leaders who work at Amazon, Walmart, Petco, PetSmart and other retail companies unveiled a call for pandemic protections — access to paid and unpaid leave, virus safety precautions including transparency about cases, decision-making for safety measures and protection from retaliation — collectively, the “Five to Survive.” These demands are basic science-based procedures that would keep employees safe and help stop the record-breaking spread of the deadly virus.