Brooklyn (Workers World Today) — Earlier this month, employees at Whole Foods Market made an effort to unionize. The announcement came on Sept. 6 as workers of the company started a mass email thread they sent to nearly all store-level employees in each of the 490 stores owned and operated by the supermarket chain.
The email attempts to get workers of the company to push for unionization together. Whole Foods—which was bought by Amazon in June 2017 for $13.7 billion—has never needed to unionize because according to them, they treat workers fairly. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is well known for keeping employee unions out of his company, citing this very reason.
The email stated that Amazon-owned Whole Foods should provide better benefits in the form of a more liveable minimum wage, decreased health insurance costs, paid maternity leave and well-rounded retirement benefits.
Employees of the Whole Foods brand were steady to make the decision seeing as recent job cuts and fewer stock options were becoming a new reality. As a part of the previous Whole Foods benefits package, store-level employees were allowed to partake in profit-sharing through stocks.
Many of the marketing staff for the grocery chain were laid off this past year. Those laid off from the in-store marketing staff had the duties of organizing local events and creating signs that displayed store sales on items. Regional marketing staff were also laid off in an attempt for Whole Foods to centralize their marketing.
According to Supermarket News, the jobs most at risk of further layoffs are those of supervisors, store scanners, customer service personnel and department order writers.
Many believe moves like these are changing the original culture that represented what Whole Foods originally stood for. Under the Whole Foods owned and operated by Chief Executive John Mackey, he claimed employee morale was at its highest—reiterating the same sentiment of Bezos.
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union is assisting the organizers of the email in their endeavors to unionize. Union president, Stuart Appelbaum, said “The RWDSU stands with workers in precarious positions no matter what—Amazon and Whole Foods workers are no different,” as stated in the Wall Street Journal.
Appelbaum continues to solidify his stance for Whole Foods workers unionization by stating, “We will not back down until Amazon workers are treated with dignity and respect.”
Amazon just recently became a trillion-dollar company. The issue here is that the parent company of Whole Foods Market keeps on expanding but unfortunately for the employees, they are experiencing very little advantage from it. Workers complain that they are living paycheck to paycheck and this is simply not enough.
New Food Economy—a nonprofit news outlet—conducted a survey which shockingly found that in Arizona, one in three Amazon employees are dependant on the government food program, SNAP, to feed their families. Amazon responds to this statistic stating that these are employees who only work part-time.
Information like this is what prompted U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders to fashion the appropriately named Stop BEZOS Act. The bill’s full nomenclature is Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act and it aims to impose penalties on businesses of considerable size who have their employees receiving aid from government programs.
Dana Mathura is a senior at Baruch College majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Journalism, class of Spring 2019. Dana has written for the online publication Odyssey and is currently a News and Feature Writer for Caribbean American Weekly, as well as Workers World Today. Her work has been published both in print and online. Fascinated with journalism from a young age, she is an aspiring Broadcast News Analyst, hoping one day to write her own memoir. Dana’s interests include fashion, photography and film.