The May Day strike from Amazon, Instacart, and Target workers didn’t stop business. It was still a success.

Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

In the time of coronavirus, essential workers can hold effective protests even without huge attendance. Essential workers at major companies like Amazon, Instacart, and Target across the United States on Friday protested for better safety protections, working conditions, and pay during the coronavirus pandemic . The event attracted considerable media attention and political support, pushing companies to respond to the basic demands workers have been asking for since the beginning of the disease’s spread in the US and signaling that these workers have a sympathetic ear in the broader public.
By some measures, the protests — along with a recent series of walkouts or “sickouts” at Amazon’s warehouses and a general strike at Instacart — could be seen as underwhelming. Participation hasn’t been enough to shut down warehouses or, according to companies, slow down overall business. Both Amazon and Instacart have said they’ve seen record sales during the pandemic, and despite labor actions, there seem to be no signs that growth is slowing down.
“While there is tremendous media coverage of today’s protests, we see no measurable impact on operations,” wrote Rachael Lighty, an Amazon spokesperson, in a statement to Recode, which also stated that the company is committed to worker safety has spent $800 million on additional worker safety measures since the pandemic hit. Target and Instacart also sent statements saying that the companies are committed to worker safety; a spokesperson for Target said the company is aware of fewer than 10 Target workers who attended protests.
But regardless of scale, the protests were historic and, to a degree, effective. For the first time, organizers brought together a coalition of low-paid, non-unionized, often temporary employees from some of the largest companies in the US. They gained the backing of major political leaders like Sen. Kamala Harris , Sen. Cory Booker , and Sen. Elizabeth Warren , who tweeted in support of workers. And more importantly, their protests drew significant media coverage and public support at a time when the customers are more grateful and sympathetic than ever to the workers essential in keeping them supplied with food and necessary goods during the pandemic. Publications like the Washington Post , the Los Angles Times , and Vice as well as broadcast networks like CNN covered the event, and social media posts about it were shared widely .
Many of the places where workers gathered to protest, such as New York and California, currently have stay-at-home orders. In pictures and video of the events from those locations, protesters are largely seen wearing masks and face coverings. It’s unclear if workers were able to maintain social distancing in each protest.
“We haven’t seen anything like this since the 1930s — a crisis like this and workers who are hurting badly,” said Thomas...