Whole Foods increases staff pay but employees say it’s mayhem in stores
Hourly employees will receive an additional $2 through the end of April
As we’re entering this unprecedented new era of social distancing and panic-buying, retail staff are increasingly working on the frontlines of this pandemic.
The food industry in the US is notorious for its lack of employee sick days. And according to Vice’s Motherboard, the CEO of Whole Foods last week sent an email to staff saying they could ‘donate’ their paid time off (PTO) to coworkers who were facing medical emergencies.
The same email explained that Whole Foods will offer unlimited unpaid time off during March, and two weeks of paid time off for staff who test positive for Covid-19.
Whole Foods is a subsidiary of Amazon, and as such, it *could* afford to pay its employees sick leave. As reported by Vice, many staff members are not happy that they have to effectively share it out amongst themselves.
On March 16 Whole Foods followed this up with an official statement saying it would be boosting its hourly employee pay. The statement read:
"As a grocer, we believe serving customers and the community during this time is essential. Today, Amazon announced that they are providing hourly employees with an additional $2 per hour through the end of April. We are joining Amazon in this measure. Starting today, all part and full-time hourly Team Members at Whole Foods Market stores and facilities in the U.S. and Canada will receive an additional $2 per hour on top of their current hourly rate through the month of April.”
(They also announced some changes that will affect customers, including the temporary closure of hot bars and salad bars.)
But a new Vice report released today, March 17, states that Whole Foods employees say scenes in stores across the US have been “utter chaos”.
A barista at a Chicago Whole Foods told Vice: “I’ve worked the last six days in a row. Today is the first day I’ve called off because I was scared to go there. There are record sales. People are saying they’re never seen anything like this. It can only be described as post-apocalyptic. Our shelves are empty. Literally everything is gone except for cheese. Workers are crying and having panic attacks.”
“As a grocer, we believe our role serving customers and the community during this time is a critical one," a spokesperson for Whole Foods told Motherboard. "The health and wellbeing of our Team Members remains a top priority and we’ve implemented numerous measures to support them during this time of uncertainty, including stringent sanitation measures to ensure a safe work environment, unlimited call-outs, and access to 2-weeks paid time off that was announced for all Amazon employees.”