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Whole Foods Markets Workers Planning ‘Sick Out’ Today Over Coronavirus

By Rich Duprey - Mar 31, 2020 at 9:26AM

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Despite enhanced safety rules, a union petition says the grocer is ignoring employee health risks.

Although Whole Foods Market has raised worker pay by $2 per hour to compensate them for the extra work they've performed during the coronavirus pandemic as demand has soared, employees are preparing to go on strike today because the organic grocer has reportedly failed to take their safety into consideration.

An online petition by the Whole Worker's National Organizing Committee, a union that has been trying to organize the grocer since 2018, demands Whole Foods parent Amazon.com (AMZN 1.12%) "allocate the necessary resources for us to do our jobs safely."

Whole Foods Market storefront

Image source: Whole Foods Market.

An organizing plan

The petition calls for:

  • Guaranteed paid leave for workers who self-quarantine or isolate and don't work their shifts.
  • Healthcare benefits for part-time and seasonal workers.
  • Increased flexible spending account contributions for COVID-19 testing and treatment.
  • Double pay during regular work hours as "hazard pay."
  • Closing any store where a worker has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to Whole Foods, the grocer has implemented a number of policies for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, including: enhanced cleaning and sanitation rules, enforcement of social distancing rules, giving workers unlimited time off if they are unwilling or unable to work their shifts, offering two-weeks paid sick leave for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19, and offering overtime pay that is double the employee's regular hourly rate. 

The strike was originally supposed to take place on May 1, but the union moved up the action ostensibly because four workers have become ill.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Rich Duprey has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and recommends the following options: short January 2022 $1940 calls on Amazon and long January 2022 $1920 calls on Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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