Some Whole Foods workers strike over virus safety concerns, better pay

In this Aug. 8, 2018, photo shoppers enter a Whole Foods Market in Upper Saint Clair, Pa. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

A Whole Foods Market workers group encouraged employees to call out sick Tuesday as grocery store and e-commerce staff find themselves on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic and are calling for better protections and pay.

The strike, organized by Whole Worker’s national organizing committee, is being called a “global sick out.”

At Amazon-owned Whole Foods, the group’s demands include guaranteed double hazard pay, paid sick leave for employees who self-quarantine, reinstatement of health coverage for seasonal and part-time workers, and the immediate shutdown of locations where workers have tested positive for coronavirus with continued pay for employees.

The strike was originally planned for May 1, but organizers say the increase in coronavirus cases among workers has made their message more critical.

According to a spokesperson for Whole Foods, the company has increased employee pay by $2 an hour and will give employees who test positive up to two weeks paid leave.

“Whole Foods Market is committed to prioritizing our team members’ well-being, while recognizing their extraordinary dedication. Our longstanding open-door policy encourages direct dialogue
between team members and leadership, which continues to shape the decisions we are making every day,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

On Monday, some workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island and the app-based grocery delivery service Instacart staged a walkout, calling attention to their demands for better pay and protections as they deliver essential items to millions of people hunkering down at home during the pandemic.

The actions come as Amazon and Instacart are hiring thousands of workers to meet the surge in demand for deliveries: Amazon is hiring 100,000 more workers and Instacart is hiring 300,000 more contracted workers. Walmart, Dollar General and Pizza Hut are among other companies also hiring as layoffs surge in restaurants, retail, hospitality, airports and other industries.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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