- A Whole Foods worker in Detroit sent a mass email on Thursday calling for the Amazon-owned grocer to reinstate hazard pay, health benefits for part-time workers, gain-sharing, and the company’s previous dress code.
- The employee also asked Whole Foods to make face masks or shield mandatory for customers visiting its stores, according to the email, which was sent to the entire company and later published by worker group Whole Worker.
- The employee’s email comes as the retail industry’s frontline workers across the country call for hazard pay amid the coronavirus pandemic and a busy holiday season.
- Whole Foods previously paid workers an extra $2 an hour, but that program ended in June. Several current and former employees told Business Insider earlier this month that morale is low at their stores and some safety measures, like social distancing, have been relaxed.
- A Whole Foods spokesperson did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment as of publishing.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A Whole Foods worker in Detroit sent an email to the entire company on Thursday demanding that the Amazon-owned grocer change its policies to better protect workers during the pandemic.
The mass email, which was published by worker group Whole Worker, outlines what the worker sees as Whole Foods leadership’s “complete lack of respect and caution for team members’ general welfare,” including removing health benefits for part-time workers, changing the company’s dress code policy, and what the employee sees as a failure to be transparent about COVID-19 cases at Whole Foods stores.
The employee’s name was redacted to protect their identity, Whole Worker said.
“If we allow this to continue, the company will remain completely disconnected from the interest of their workers, taking advantage of our fear and desperation in these trying times,” the email read. “No one would argue that the COVID outbreak is … Amazon’s fault, but the company has no excuse for such a cruel reaction to this pandemic.”
The email included a list of requested policy changes, which the employee said have received “widespread support” from other team members. Topping the list was hazard pay, which has been widely requested among frontline workers throughout the pandemic. While Whole Foods workers were given an extra $2 per hour in hazard pay in the early months of the pandemic, that program has not been reinstated since it ended in June.
Other requested policy changes in the email included reinstating health benefits for part-time employees – a program that was cut last year – and expanding PTO to factor in workers’ risk of exposure to COVID and the possibility that they have to care for family members.
Additionally, the employee is asking that Whole Foods mandate face masks or shields for customers, give yearly raises to employees, reinstate gain-sharing (where employees benefit financially when they save the company money), and reinstate the company’s previous, more flexible dress code, which changed November 2.
A Whole Foods spokesperson did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment as of publishing.
The letter mirrors sentiment from several current and former Whole Foods employees who spoke with Business Insider earlier this month. Employees described feeling threatened by rising COVID cases at their stores and frustrated by the lack of response from company leadership. Those workers said morale at their stores is low, their teams are understaffed, and that they feel that customers often ignore social distancing guidelines.
A Whole Foods spokesperson said at the time that stores are “diligent in their efforts to maintain a safe working and shopping experience” and that the company has been conservative in limiting how many people are allowed in its stores.
The letter suggests that unionizing is the best way to achieve policy changes like hazard pay and store safety, a solution the employee sees as “not an outrageous goal to anyone, except perhaps to those who run the company.”
According to previous reporting from Business Insider’s Hayley Peterson, Whole Foods actively tracks stores at risk of unionizing using an interactive heat map that calculates a risk score using metrics like employee “loyalty,” racial diversity, violations recorded by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and more.
The company has said that an “overwhelming majority” of Whole Foods employees prefer a “direct relationship” with the company rather than union representation.