Whole Foods Workers Protest, Company Sees 'No Operational Impact'

Whole Foods employees are looking for increased hazard pay among other demands including guaranteed paid leave for workers who self-quarantine.
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Labor strife over working conditions at Whole Foods Market led to a national "sick out" Tuesday, but the size and efficacy of the protest are under question as the company says it has "seen no operational impact."

That appeared to be an accurate assessment after spot checks at the Whole Foods stores in Gowanus and Fort Greene, Brooklyn showed business as usual with some employees telling TheStreet they had no idea there was strike planned for today. 

On Monday, Vice reported that employees were planning to strike today over lack of protections offered to workers during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The plan, according to Whole Worker, a national network of Whole Foods employees that organized the sick out, is to pressure Whole Foods into increasing hazard pay, among other demands. 

"The most obvious demand we have is for an increase in hazard pay. We’re asking for double pay,” Vice quoted an anonymous Chicago Whole Foods employee, and strike organizer as saying. 

Attempts to reach Whole Foods were not successful, but the company did put out a statement to the Daily Mail saying  

'It is disappointing that a small but vocal group, many of whom are not employed by Whole Foods Market, have been given a platform to inaccurately portray the collective voice of our 95,000+ Team Members who are heroically showing up every day to provide our communities with an essential service.' 

The company also said that the sick out had "no operational impact."

A few weeks ago, Whole Foods raised hourly pay for its workers by $2 an hour and offered to provide two weeks of paid sick leave to workers, but that doesn't go far enough for disgruntled workers who want that pay increase to become permanent. according to a telegram post from a Whole Foods employee. 

The elephant in the room is Whole Foods behemoth of a parent company, Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Report

Historically, Amazon has been more risk-averse when it comes to labor and labor disputes. And while Amazon is one of the country's biggest employers with over 400,000 employees in the U.S. alone, its trajectory is pointed toward reducing labor costs over the long term. 

Amazon already operates its chain of cashier-less Amazon Go convenience stores that allow shoppers to just walk out with the products with their purchases simply charged to their Amazon accounts. 

The company is also developing robotic warehouse technology that could eventually endanger Amazon's 125,000 full-time fulfillment center employees