Whole Foods workers across the country called in sick Tuesday as part of a national day of protest against the work conditions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The national “sick-out” was orchestrated by a group of employees calling themselves “Whole Worker.” The group urged employees to call in sick and advised all Americans to avoid shopping at Whole Foods and Amazon, which acquired Whole Foods Market in 2017 for $13.7 billion.
“Whole Foods has temporarily relaxed its strict attendance policy, which means that team members can participate in this act of protest without fear of reprisal. We encourage all retail workers at other companies to join us in this act of solidarity,” states an online petition started by Whole Worker.
The group is demanding that Amazon provide guaranteed paid leave for workers who are required to self-quarantine and the reinstatement of health care coverage for part-time and seasonal workers.
Other demands include health insurance coverage for all coronavirus testing and treatment, guaranteed hazard pay, the implementation of new policies to facilitate social distancing, increased sanitation supplies, and the immediate closure of any location where a worker tests positive for COVID-19.
“Amazon and its subsidiary Whole Foods dared to keep open an Amazon warehouse and two Whole Foods stores where employees tested positive for COVID-19. We must prioritize the health of our workers over short-term financial gain,” said Whole Worker. “We are working harder than we have ever worked. We are putting our lives at risk. We deserve to have our needs met.”
Workers at Amazon warehouses are staging similar strikes in response to the company’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, America’s largest food and retail union, announced its “strong support” for the protests in a statement released Monday.
“Amazon, Instacart, and Whole Foods workers are sending a powerful message that it’s time to stop putting corporate profits ahead of the health and safety of the men and women who are critical to our food supply, and are on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone.
“If Amazon, Instacart, and Whole Foods are unwilling to do what is right to protect their workers and our communities, the UFCW is ready to listen and do all we can to help protect these brave workers from irresponsible employers who are ignoring the serious threat posed by the rapidly growing coronavirus outbreak,” he added.
Several progressive politicians expressed their support for the Whole Foods and Amazon protesters, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN-05).
Workers at Amazon warehouses, Whole Foods grocery stores and Instacart food delivery do some of the most important jobs in America.
These wealthy corporations must give them the paid sick leave, safe workplaces, and protective gear they are demanding. https://t.co/QA5WWgh6DI
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 30, 2020
Our healthcare, grocery, warehouse, and delivery workers need more than our gratitude. They need:
– Overtime/hazard pay
– Paid leave
– Health coverage
– $ for childcare
– Safety & sanitation equipment
It’s not enough to thank our frontline workers. We need to fight for them.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 31, 2020
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