Coronavirus leads some Walmart workers to call out of work

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Walmart workers, saying the company is failing to inform and protect them from the spread of COVID-19, will start tracking cases themselves and stay home from work for a day in protest.

Over 500 Walmart employees were expected to not report to their jobs Wednesday to signal the launch of a new system that will enable workers to report when colleagues have contracted the virus, says United for Respect, the non-profit group that created the tracker.

Employees will also be able to report when poor safety conditions exist inside their stores.

“The rise of deaths and infections of Walmart associates show clearly that the company is not only failing to keep its associates and customers safe, but also failing to communicate clearly about store conditions,’’ Ruby Ann Woolwine, a worker at a Michigan Walmart, said in a press statement. “We can’t wait for more half-measures. We’re taking matters into our own hands to get the information we deserve to know.”

Walmart could not be immediately reached for comment. 

The actions are the latest by workers who say they are risking their health as they stock shelves, staff counters and delivers goods in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but can’t get the paid time off or supplies they need to keep themselves safe.

United for Respect says that Walmart is not enforcing the social spacing health officials recommend to help slow the spread of the virus. They also say the retailer is not providing sufficient safety equipment, hazard pay or paid sick leave.

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And, workers and customers are being kept in the dark about how many people working in stores have been infected, United for Respect says

Employees of Amazon, Instacart, Whole Foods and Target have also staged or planned walkouts and strikes in recent weeks.

Last week, more than 350 Amazon warehouse workers in 50 locations said they would call out from their jobs starting Tuesday, according to Athena, a coalition of local and national organizations representing workers. 

Target workers were also planning a mass sickout May 1, saying the retailer is still not prioritizing employee safety.

Follow Charisse Jones on Twitter @charissejones 

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