‘Makes the raise pointless’: Whole Foods employees complain of cut hours after min wage hikes take effect

Whole Foods employees are reportedly feeling the negative effects of a decision by Amazon last year to enact a $15 minimum wage.

Employees of the supermarket chain, which was purchased by Amazon in 2017, initially saw an increase in their wages after the parent company bowed to public pressure and raised the minimum wage for all of its employees in November, The Guardian reported.

(File Photo: Flickr)

But after the change, which saw a $2 an hour increase for team leaders as well as a $1 an hour wage increase for other team members, Whole Foods employees told the Guardian that they have experienced cuts in their hours as shifts have been reduced in schedule changes across many stores.

“My hours went from 30 to 20 a week,” an Illinois Whole Foods employee told the publication, which reported that many who were interviewed “were reluctant to speak on the record for fear of retaliation.”

According to the Guardian:

The Illinois-based worker explained that once the $15 minimum wage was enacted, part-time employee hours at their store were cut from an average of 30 to 21 hours a week, and full-time employees saw average hours reduced from 37.5 hours to 34.5 hours. The worker provided schedules from 1 November to the end of January 2019, showing hours for workers in their department significantly decreased as the department’s percentage of the entire store labor budget stayed relatively the same.

 

The cuts were “the direct result of guidance from our regional team,” according to an internal memo the employee shred from a department manager.

“We just have to work faster to meet the same goals in less time,” the employee remarked.

A Whole Foods employee in Maryland indicated that the minimum wage increases have been “pointless” as the cuts have seemingly negated any of the benefits the raises would have provided.

“This hours cut makes that raise pointless as people are losing more than they gained and we rely on working full shifts,” the worker said, revealing that stores were forced by regional management to cut four hours from full-time employee schedules, reducing them to 36 hours per week.

“At my store all full-time team members are 36 to 38 hours per week now,” an Oregon Whole Foods employee told the Guardian. “So what workers do if they want a full 40 hours is take a little bit of their paid time off each week to fill their hours to 40. Doing the same thing myself.”

Amazon ended its bonus and stock incentive programs for warehouse and customer service workers last year after the decision to raise the company’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, caving under pressure from activists and politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders who had criticized CEO Jeff Bezos and his company for practices exploiting employees.

The schedule cuts amid the wage increases at Whole Foods have reportedly affected staffing at many of the stores.

“Things that have made it more noticeable are the long lines, the need to call for cashier and bagging assistance, and customers not being able to find help in certain departments because not enough are scheduled, and we are a big store,” a California Whole Foods employee said.

“Just about every person on our team has complained about their hours being cut. Some have had to look for other jobs as they can’t make ends meet,” the worker said.

The group, Whole Worker, was launched in September by employees hoping to form a union since Amazon took over. But Whole Foods reportedly began to train its management “to fight back against union organization,” the Guardian reported. A training video taught how to know the “early warning signs of potential organizing.”

In an email to the publication, a Whole Worker spokesperson noted that there are “many team members working at Whole Foods today whose total compensation is actually less than what it was before the wage increase due to these labor reductions.”

Twitter users weighed in on the schedule cuts and seemed not too surprised.

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Frieda Powers

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