Amid layoffs and lower pay since a takeover by Amazon, Whole Foods employees are now looking to unionize.
Workers at most of Whole Foods’ nearly 500 stores sent an email to fellow employees asking for support and backing of the unionization move, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
Organizers want to “collectively voice our concerns to Whole Foods Market and Amazon leadership,” looking for better pay, benefits and profit-sharing programs.
“It is time to hold [CEO] John Mackey accountable in supporting his team members,” they wrote in the letter. “It is not acceptable to layoff dedicated team members with meager severance packages, no health insurance and then merely offer the opportunity to re-apply for other positions at a much lower wage.”
Workers are demanding a $15 minimum wage, paid maternity leave, lower health insurance deductibles and equal profit sharing among other things. Whole Foods has been against unionization as has Amazon, which purchased the company last year.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
The chain has appeared near the top of lists ranking companies by the benefits they offer and the gap in pay between managers and workers. Whole Foods paid $20.15 an hour and $41,911 a year on average in 2016, according to a company filing, more than many other grocers.
But worker grievances started to multiply after Whole Foods laid off hundreds of workers in 2015 amid weak sales. Whole Foods eliminated hundreds of marketing jobs this year, deepening the discontent.
Workers say Whole Foods also stopped offering stock options to lower-level staff after Amazon took over.
Stock options are now only offered to store management and those at Whole Foods home office whereas they previously were available to full-time workers who had reached a level of service hours. The policy changed when Amazon took over.
Amazon and Whole Foods do not agree with the allegations.
“We offer competitive wages and benefits and are committed to the growth and success of our team members,” a Whole Foods spokeswoman told the Journal.
“The clandestine nature of Amazon offering stock options to store leadership without informing [other employees] is beyond problematic,” the message from workers read. “It is insulting and unethical.”
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union is helping the employees in their effort to unionize.
“The RWDSU stands with workers in precarious positions no matter what—Amazon and Whole Foods workers are no different,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the national organization based in New York with 100,000 members, said.
“We will not back down until Amazon workers are treated with dignity and respect,” he added.
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