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Whole Foods employee sends mass email demanding return of hazard pay amid coronavirus surge

Alexandra Deabler
·3 min read

A Whole Foods employee in Detroit sent a mass email to the company on Thursday, demanding the grocer change its policies to better protect its workers during the second-wave of coronavirus that has been affecting the United States.

According to an alleged republication of the letter shared on the Whole Worker website, an organization of Whole Foods employees, the employee asks for the reinstatement of hazard pay, health coverage for part-time workers and to reverse its new dress code policy.

In the email, he claims the nationwide grocery store, which is owned by Amazon, “does not have team members’ well being at heart.”

“It has become abundantly clear during this pandemic that Whole Foods is obsessed with pushing us, the workers, to keep up production at the expense of our health and our customers' health. As of December of this year, Whole Foods Market has had outbreaks at nearly every store in the company,” the letter reads.

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“There has been no effort made by Jeff Bezos or John Mackey to spread their immense wealth back to the workers (their wealth has in fact grown enormously during the pandemic). They are more than able to redistribute some form of payments to workers whether it be retroactive hazard pay, better benefits, free PTO for sick team members or all of the above. Instead, we have been treated to meager bonuses and short-lived, token hazard pay,” the letter continues.

Early in the pandemic, Whole Foods instituted a $2/hour extra for hazard pay for its employees working. However, it discontinued that policy in June as states nationwide began to open up again. Now, the employee writing the letter is demanding it be reinstated, along with extended PTO coverage “to factor in the increased risk of exposure to COVID,” and return of health benefits for part-time workers.

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Whole Foods offers up to two weeks paid time off for employees who have tested positive or are presumed to have COVID-19.

The letter also calls on the company to institute a mask mandate for customers. Currently, the company’s website lists that as of July 20, all Whole Foods Markets require face coverings for shoppers. However, it concedes “customers with a medical or other exemption” can wear a face shield or “participate in a brief medical screening before entering the store.”

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In other policy changes, the writer asks for “the return of the old dress code policy, as a sign of respect for the free speech and expression of Whole Foods workers.” In November, the dress code was changed, which now forbids shirts with visible messages, logos or flags. At the time, employees expressed their unhappiness over the change.

"It feels like they're cracking down on overall enjoyment,” an employee said at the time. The brand also faced backlash over the summer from banning employees from wearing Black Lives Matter masks.

A spokesperson from Whole Foods told FOX Business the company has invested $450 million in safety measures and claims the company is listening to team members’ complaints.

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“The safety of our Team Members and customers is our highest priority. Whole Foods Market will invest more than $450M this year to maintain rigorous safety measures in our stores and facilities and to provide our Team Members with additional benefits to support them during this time. We are listening to the feedback of our Team Members and continue to look for sustainable and meaningful ways to help ease the impact COVID-19 has had on all our stakeholders,” the comment read.

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