Fresh out of everything

Amazon offers higher pay as grocery orders skyrocket and workers walk out

With people avoiding leaving the house as much as they can, a lot of people are getting their groceries from Amazon, and its warehouses are struggling to keep up.

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With people avoiding leaving the house as much as they can during this coronavirus outbreak, online grocery orders have increased by over 200 percent on some grocery delivery apps. Amazon is seeing a major increase in demand, and its reportedly struggling to keep up.

According to Reuters, Amazon is offering a pay raise to any warehouse employee that agrees to switch to picking and packing Whole Foods grocery orders. Amazon employees who take this offer will be paid $19 an hour, which is a significant raise from the company's highest warehouse wage of $17.

Amazon transferring employees like this is referred to as "labor sharing." Amazon has reportedly notified warehouse workers of this opportunity around the nation, and the work involves completing grocery orders by collecting items from a Whole Foods store "under tight time limits," Reuters claims.

An Amazon spokesperson tells Inverse that the company is doing what it thinks is best to make sure orders get filled.

"Every day we are helping communities by delivering critical supplies directly to the doorsteps of people who need them," the spokesperson said. "As we continue to see a significant increase in demand for grocery orders, we are offering temporary opportunities for associates across our fulfillment network to provide additional support, helping us to continue to meet customer needs."

One concern with Amazon seeing so much traffic is how well it is taking care of these workers while demand is high during this coronavirus outbreak. It's been reported that at least 17 warehouses have had employees test positive for coronavirus thus far, but the retail giant has yet to confirm this.

In response to growing concerns, Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island, N.Y. joined Instacart delivery workers in walking off their jobs on Monday as part of an effort to get these companies to increase protections during the coronavirus outbreak. Amazon workers want an increase in paid time off and more cleaning of warehouses.

Multiple people at the Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island have tested positive for coronavirus, and the workers say they want the entire warehouse sanitized before they'll return to work. Amazon told USA Today in a statement that the company is doing everything it can to keep workers safe.

"We have taken extreme measures to keep people safe, tripling down on deep cleaning, procuring safety supplies that are available and changing process to ensure those in our buildings are keeping safe distances," the company said.

Amazon announced earlier this month that it would be hiring 100,000 new workers to meet the increase in demand it's been seeing. The company also stopped receiving shipments of anything but medical and household goods so it could focus on supplying the products people truly need right now.

At a time when companies are laying off people left and right, it's good that Amazon is able to provide people work, but workers want to make sure they're not putting themselves or others at risk while they complete orders for people who are staying at home. The last thing they want to do is infect someone who's being responsible by quarantining themselves.

See also: So, can you get coronavirus from the mail? A medical researcher explains.

The company has an important role to play during this coronavirus outbreak, so one would hope it really is doing everything it can to keep workers safe and prevent them from getting infected. Companies shouldn't sacrifice safety just to get orders filled.

The Inverse analysis

We won't know for some time what effect this coronavirus outbreak will have on businesses around the nation, but it's clear Amazon is benefitting from an increase in online orders while many brick-and-mortar stores around the country are closed and may never open back up. A small business losing months of revenue is hard to recover from, and as these businesses wait to see what's next, people are getting more and more used to staying home and shopping online rather than leaving the house to shop, which could have a lasting effect.

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