Whole Foods Market Workers Plan Walkout

Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
Whole Foods Market Workers to Strike
In recent weeks, Whole Foods has increased hourly pay for its workers by $2 an hour and increased some benefits.

Whole Foods Market employees are planning a "sick-out" in protest of a perceived lack of protections for workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Vice.com, Whole Foods employees will call in sick on Tuesday to demand paid leave for all workers who stay home or self-quarantine during the crisis, free coronavirus testing for all employees, and hazard pay of double the current hourly wage for employees who show up to work during the pandemic.

“COVID-19 is a very real threat to the safety of our workforce and customers,” according to Whole Worker, the national worker group that is organizing the “sick out”. “We cannot wait for politicians, institutions, or our own management to step in to protect us.”

In an emailed statement, Whole Foods Market told Progressive Grocer:

"As we address unprecedented demand and fulfill a critical need in our communities, Whole Foods Market is committed to prioritizing our Team Members’ wellbeing, while recognizing their extraordinary dedication. We have taken extensive measures to keep people safe, and in addition to social distancing, enhanced deep cleaning and crowd control measures, we continue rolling out new safety protocols in our stores to protect our Team Members who are on the front lines serving our customers. Team Members in our stores and facilities also have access to up to two weeks of paid time off if they test positive for COVID or are quarantined, an additional $2 per hour on top of hourly base pay, and increased overtime pay. Whole Foods Market's longstanding open door policy encourages direct dialogue between Team Members and leadership, feedback which continues to shape the decisions we are making every day."

The sick-out threat follows reports that Whole Foods workers at numerous stores across the country, including locations in New York City, Chicago, Louisiana and California have tested positive for COVID-19, Vice reported. 

In recent weeks, Whole Foods has increased hourly pay for its workers by $2 an hour, offered to provide two weeks of paid sick leave to workers who test positive for COVID-19, and said it would not penalize workers for calling out sick.

The news of Whole Foods workers threatening a work stoppage comes after Amazon warehouse workers in New York City and Instacart shoppers across the country walked off the job on Monday.

On Saturday Amazon began screening employees for elevated temperatures starting at sites in Seattle and New York City as “an additional preventive measure.”

On Sunday Instacart rolled out retroactive sick pay for in-store shoppers nationally and extended pay for all shoppers affected by the virus.

“We were the first company to launch "Leave at My Door Delivery" to give our customers and shoppers a safer, more flexible delivery option. Last week, we announced a new COVID-19 bonus to increase pay as Instacart shoppers step up as household heroes for customers,” Nilam Ganenthiran, president of Instacart, said. “And now, we've sourced, manufactured, and are distributing our own hand sanitizer in an effort to expedite distribution lead times and work around supply chain shortages. Our teams will continue to operate with a sense of urgency on creative solutions to help ensure Instacart shoppers have access to health and safety supplies as quickly as possible."

The company has also changed an important feature of its service designed to increase shoppers tips by removing control from the customer. Based on the positive feedback from shoppers and customers during product tests, Instacart launched a new customer tip default setting for all Instacart customers across North America. The change means all existing customers' completed orders default to the customer's last tip amount, instead of the previous 5% tip default setting.

Grocers across the country have been ramping up safety measures (such as sanitation and sneeze guards) and hiring amid the pandemic.

Seattle-based Amazon, under Whole Foods Market, is No. 10 on PG’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.

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