SANTA MONICA, CA — Workers at Whole Foods grocery stores nationwide called for a global sickout Tuesday to demand better protections for employees working during the coronavirus pandemic. With cashiers and delivery drivers joining first responders on the frontlines of the pandemic, the sickout is part of a growing effort to protect workers providing essential services during statewide shutdowns.
Many across Santa Monica depend on Whole Foods for grocery deliveries during the shutdown. Shoppers have been flocking to the stores in Santa Monica at 1425 Montana Ave, 2201 Wilshire Blvd and 2121 Cloverfield Blvd.
Whole Foods is owned by Amazon, and the sickout comes a day after Amazon workers staged a strike. Amazon reportedly fired the factory worker who organized the strike, according to USA Today. The Whole Foods workers are seeking guaranteed paid leave for all workers who isolate or self-quarantine, to reinstate health care coverage for part-time and seasonal workers, to increase testing among workers and to guarantee hazard pay in the form of double pay during regular scheduled hours. They also want the company to implement policies on social distancing between workers and customers and to make sure all stores have adequate sanitation equipment in place.
Employees also want any location where a worker tests positive for the coronavirus to be shut down, with workers continuing to receive full pay until the store can safely reopen
"We cannot wait for politicians, institutions, or our own management to step in to protect us," the Whole Worker's National Organizing Committee said in a statement. "We are working harder than we have ever worked. "We are putting our lives at risk. We deserve to have our needs met."
Whole Foods has responded by asserting that it has taken extensive safety measures, including deep cleaning and crowd control measures as it continues to implement new safety protocols to protect employees.
Employees have access to up to two weeks of paid time off if they test positive for COVID-19 or are quarantined. The company has also increased hourly base pay by $2 per hour and increased overtime pay, according to Whole Foods executive.
City News Service and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report.