Socialist Worker

US workers stage walkouts and protests over coronavirus safety

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2698

Nurses in California protest over a lack of protective clothing

Nurses in California protest over a lack of protective clothing (Pic: Twitter/Bonnie Castillo)


Workers’ action is spreading across the US to stop bosses putting profit ahead of health in the coronavirus crisis. 

Several hundred refuse workers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, struck unofficially on Wednesday and are not returning to work unless bosses bring in safety measures. 

One worker said, “We want better equipment, protective gear—we have no masks.”

Many of them are purchasing their own protective gloves and masks. Workers have also accused the city’s sanitation department of not alerting them that one of their colleague’s partners tested positive for Covid-19. 

Refuse worker Tom Foley said, “We’re kind of taken for granted because they don’t have to call for us like they have to call for the fire and police departments. 

“We just show up and do our job.” 

The walkout has forced bosses into talks with the workers over their demands. 

#GeneralStrike was trending on twitter in the US on Wednesday. 

Bus drivers in Birmingham, Alabama, refused to work without protective masks on Monday. Greg, an ATU union branch president, “We’ve been talking to the company for a while over this coronavirus and what we need to do our job. 

“We sent them information of equipment that would allow us to safely do our job 

“So it’s not like they just found this out today and our members feel the company is ignoring their demands.” 

Welcome to strike country - inside the spreading US teachers strikes
Welcome to strike country - inside the spreading US teachers' strikes
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The action forced bosses to adopt social distancing measures on buses, including restricting passenger numbers to 15 to 19 and blocking off seats. 

One the same day abattoir workers in Kathleen, Georgia, walked out to demand hazard pay and cleaner working conditions.

It came after Amazon workers walked out in New York after a worker tested positive for the virus. 

Meanwhile, the California Nurses Association say it is considering a “safety stop”—meaning workers would walk out over fears of safety.

Nurses protested outside Kaiser Permanente medical centres in Oakland and San Fransisco  on Monday and Tuesday. While standing apart to maintain social distance, they chanted, “We need PPE.” 

Kaiser are supplying personal protective equipment (PPE) only when nurses are in contact with confirmed coronavirus cases, but not every patient with symptoms is being tested. One nurse in Oakland said, “We are really afraid now. 

“There are nurses writing their wills.” 

The walkouts across the US shows that workers have to power to resist bosses during the coronavirus crisis.


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