Strikes by essential workers, anti-lockdown protests set for May Day

Protesters stop momentarily in April at a McDonald's drive-thru as they join fast-food workers protesting outside the restaurant in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles.
(center) Chase Gross of Costa Mesa and Savannah Martensen of San Juan Sapistrano along with other demonstrators protest the lockdown and stay-at-home orders they say are crippling the U.S. economy, while essential workers will strike nationwide on May Day to demand safer conditions during the coronavirus outbreak.
(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times)

Essential workers will strike nationwide on May Day to demand safer conditions during the coronavirus outbreak, while other groups plan rallies against tight stay-at-home orders that they say are crippling the U.S. economy.

Anti-lockdown demonstrations are expected in California, including Los Angeles. Similar protests occurred last month in Sacramento against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders that people remain at home except for essential activities. Additional rallies have been happening across California and the nation, with more planned Friday.

The organization Freedom Angels said it would demonstrate at the California Capitol, while a group calling itself We Have Rights will rally in L.A. and other Southern California cities. A protest in Huntington Beach will likely focus on Newsom’s decision to close beaches in Orange County after thousands clustered on the sand last weekend.


Local leaders say Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive to temporarily close all beaches in Orange County is government overreach.

April 30, 2020

Strike organizers say employees of Amazon, Whole Foods, Target, Fedex and other companies have become the unexpected frontline workers of the pandemic. Employees will walk off the job or call out sick Friday on International Workers’ Day in cities across the U.S. to demand unpaid time off work, hazard pay, sick leave, protective gear and cleaning supplies.

They say flawed policies by employers caused some of their co-workers to contract COVID-19.

“For these reasons, we are engaging in a mass sickout and exercising our right to refuse unsafe work conditions,” according to a statement by Whole Foods workers.

Demonstrations are planned in L.A., New York, Washington and other cities. Protesters are asking consumers not to cross picket lines or use those companies’ services for the day in solidarity.

Meanwhile nurses will take to the streets outside more than 130 hospitals in 13 states to protest a lack of personal protective equipment and the punishments they endure when they speak out about the problem. More than 60 nurses across the country have died of COVID-19, according to organizers.

“Nurses signed up to care for their patients. They did not sign up to sacrifice their lives on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Bonnie Castillo with National Nurses United.


While most families of COVID-19 patients are forced to connect through video calls, by phone or not at all, Donald Lackowski and his daughter were able to say their goodbyes in person. She’s a nurse.

April 29, 2020

Across the country, workers who interact with the public — nurses, grocery store workers and delivery drivers among them — have taken action in recent weeks to protect themselves. Rolling job actions have popped up across the limping economy, including by Pittsburgh sanitation workers who walked off their jobs and fast-food employees in California who left restaurants to perform socially distanced protests in their cars.

In response to planned protests by its workers, Amazon said in a statement: “While we respect people’s right to express themselves, we object to the irresponsible actions of labor groups in spreading misinformation and making false claims about Amazon during this unprecedented health and economic crisis. We have gone to extreme measures to understand and address this pandemic.”

Amazon said it has spent more than $800 million on COVID‑19 safety measures including masks, hand sanitizer and gloves and installing hand-washing stations at warehouses.

Walmart is conducting daily temperature checks and is providing masks and gloves to store and warehouse workers, the company said.

Pro-labor protesters who typically take to the streets on May 1 hope to get some of the attention back from recent headline-grabbing demonstrations demanding states loosen shelter-in-place orders and “reopen.”


In Michigan, hundreds of protesters swarmed the Capitol on Thursday to denounce the state’s stay-home order and business restrictions. They hoisted signs that said, “Shut down the lockdown” and “No work no freedom.”

Similarly, “MAGA May Day” car rallies by supporters of President Trump will be protesting pandemic lockdown measures in locations including L.A., Chicago, and Long Island, N.Y. Organizers concede the coronavirus threat is “very real.”

“However, America cannot destroy the lives and dreams of the majority to protect a few. The cure cannot be more dangerous than the disease. We risk losing who we are as a nation by completely shutting down the country and the economy,” said a statement on the MAGA May Day website.