1. GameStop thinks it’s too vital to close
No matter how bad your kid wants one, we’re pretty sure no one is going to die if you can’t get a Nintendo Switch. GameStop disagrees.
In March, the company told employees that its stores would remain open as “essential” services — they sell mice and keyboards — and to hand a memo explaining as much to authorities trying to shut them down.
The company has since closed its stores to customers, offering pickup at the door only. Safety concerns remain; according to the Boston Globe, a manager at one local store was told employees should tape bags on their hands while interacting with customers.
2. Big tobacco donates ventilators, because irony is dead
In late March, a Greek affiliate of tobacco giant Philip Morris donated 50 “high-tech” ventilators to local hospitals to help patients stricken by the coronavirus.
While the health minister was happy, and Philip Morris said it was “sky-high proud,” anti-smoking activists were quick to point out that the move was slightly hypocritical.
Deborah Arnott, CEO of the charity Action on Smoking health, called it a “shameful publicity stunt by Philip Morris International” and encouraged smokers to #QuitForCovid, as people with damaged lungs are more vulnerable to the disease.
3. Whole Foods suggests workers 'donate' their sick days
Whole Foods made headlines in March when CEO John Mackey suggested sick employees could ask their co-workers to donate their paid time off.
It’s a longstanding policy, but now that Whole Foods is a subsidiary of Amazon, the world’s largest company, workers were hoping for better.
As with Amazon employees, workers at Whole Foods have access to unpaid time off, but only people who test positive for COVID-19 can get pay. With a shortage of testing kits, workers fear most people experiencing symptoms will either have to work sick or go home empty handed.
4. Adidas calls it brave to stay open
The word “courageous” is usually reserved for nurses, soldiers or firefighters. Adidas thought it should join the list.
In a mid-March memo to staff justifying the company’s decision to keep its stores open, CEO Kasper Rorsted wrote: “Closing down is easy, staying open in a healthy environment requires courage.”
That’s right, Adidas thinks you shouldn’t have to choose between fresh kicks and the ability to breathe without the assistance of a ventilator. So long as employees are brave enough, you can have it all.
The decision was reversed 24 hours later, and all of the company’s athletic gear stores remain closed to the public.
5. Zoom could be watching you
With millions working and socializing from home, business has exploded for video conference company Zoom. All that attention has exposed a few security flaws.
The biggest nuisance for most is “zoombombing,” as the company made it easy for trolls to drop into your work meeting. Zoom also inadvertently shared tons of personal email addresses with other users.
But the real problem was the promise that Zoom had “end-to-end encryption,” meaning no one but participants could access your data. Turns out the company subtly redefined that term.
Zoom has since apologized for its misleading marketing and vows it won’t spy on you unless required by law.
6. McDonald’s cuts checks to investors, not workers
The company famous for that earworm jingle, “I’m Lovin’ It,” could extend more of that love to its employees.
McDonald’s continues to pay investors an annual dividend worth billions and is offering to defer rent to keep its franchises open. Yet the company’s actual workers aren’t seeing the same kind of support; some say their hours have been slashed to the point where they can’t pay their own rent.
The unrest turned into strikes in California, Florida, Missouri and Tennessee; the restaurant chain has now agreed to ramp up wellness checks, cleaning and social-distancing and to start shipping out gloves and non-medical masks.
7. Amazon fires outspoken staff
One of the few companies still hiring, Amazon has come under fire again for its alleged mistreatment of warehouse employees.
Since early April, workers have spoken out against crowded hiring events and training sessions and limited access to disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, masks and paid sick days. People have tested positive for COVID-19 at dozens of Amazon warehouses in the United States.
Some of the most vocal employees have since been fired.
Amid all the protests and walkouts, Amazon says it has taken “extreme measures” to keep people safe — and that workers don’t have free rein to demonize the company.
8. Big companies take millions meant for small businesses
Small businesses are struggling. That’s why the government pumped $349 billion into the Paycheck Protection Program, which distributed loans to help small businesses weather the coming months.
The fund quickly ran dry, and somehow more than 90 publicly traded companies managed to qualify and snatch up over $300 million in low-interest, taxpayer-funded loans.
The owners of restaurant chains with thousands of employees, like Shake Shack, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Potbelly got the maximum $10 million — though to their credit, Shake Shack and Ruth’s have since returned the cash.
9. Instacart says everything is fine
Instacart has been hit with a deluge of demand as people try to avoid going out to the grocery store. Yet the workers putting themselves out there say they’ve received little protective gear or hazard pay.
The complaints boiled over into a nationwide strike in late March. Instacart’s response? To act like everything was fine. Better than fine, really. The company said the outcry was having “absolutely no impact” on sales and it was raking in record profits. Ouch.
Though its initial gestures were called a “sick joke,” Instacart has since provided safety kits and extended bonuses and will soon launch in-app wellness checks.
10. Michaels is more concerned people may die of boredom
The craft store Michaels thinks every American has the right to bear crochet hooks and will defend that right to the death.
An employee told The Washington Post that stores were instructed to stay open because they serve “people who are bored at home.” Meanwhile, a spokesperson said Michaels stores act as UPS pickup locations and provide learning essentials to teachers, parents and small businesses. Essentials like yarn and fake flowers?
Michaels has since moved to curbside pickup where government officials allow.
11. Target misses the mark
Target workers nationwide are planning a walkout on May 1, International Workers Day, over safety issues. While the company says it is now enforcing regular cleaning, providing masks and limiting the number of customers in stores, workers say those measures have all been applied in a half-hearted way.
The Guardian reported in March that employees’ concerns of spreading the coronavirus to family were not taken seriously by Target management. One worker in New Mexico said he was told not to wear an N95 mask to work despite having a niece going through chemotherapy at home.
At the same time, several Target stores in Seattle were caught selling N95 masks, despite the global shortage. The remaining masks were redistributed to hospitals, and Target has apologized for the “error.”
12. Trader Joe’s employees ask you to boycott Trader Joe’s
The death of a sick employee in New York has aggravated an already testy battle between Trader Joe’s and workers looking to unionize at the grocery chain.
The labor coalition claims Trader Joe’s didn’t do enough to prevent the spread, putting people at risk. Early on, employees reported, managers prevented them from wearing face masks and gloves for fear of alarming customers.
Trader Joe’s now says it’s providing proper gear, enforcing social distancing and paying a $2-an-hour “thank you” bonus. The coalition says it’s too little, too late, and now workers are calling for a boycott of their own company.