Whole Foods employees are organizing a "Global Sick-Out" this Tuesday in a collective action to obtain paid leave for workers who isolate or self-quarantine during the COVID-19 outbreak, among other demands. As of right now, Whole Foods offers employees paid sick leave for those who test positive for coronavirus (and will not penalize those who call out sick), but they do not guarantee coverage for voluntary self-isolation.
The strike, which was first reported on by Vice, is being organized by Whole Worker, which describes itself as a "grassroots movement of WFM team members collectively voicing our experiences at Whole Foods and working to unionize."
The group is asking Whole Foods employees (as well as other retail workers) to call in sick Tuesday as a way for workers to lobby for things like the "reinstatement of health care coverage for part-time and seasonal workers," the "immediate shutdown" of any location where a worker tests positive for COVID-19, and guaranteed hazard pay.
“COVID-19 is a very real threat to the safety of our workforce and customers,” Whole Worker wrote in a statement to Vice. “We cannot wait for politicians, institutions, or our own management to step in to protect us.”
The sick-out was originally scheduled for May 1, but was moved up because of increased demand for groceries at Whole Foods and other retailers amid the pandemic and fears that more employees may be exposed to the virus soon because their jobs require face-to-face contact. As noted in their petition, two Whole Foods workers in New York City tested positive for the virus earlier this month.
The collective action will take place one day after workers at grocery delivery service Instacart, as well as Whole Foods' parent company Amazon's Staten Island, NY, warehouse, walked off the job.
Whole Foods issued this statement to Delish regarding the collective action:
As we address unprecedented demand and fulfill a critical need in our communities, Whole Foods Market is committed to prioritizing our Team Members’ wellbeing, while recognizing their extraordinary dedication. We have taken extensive measures to keep people safe, and in addition to social distancing, enhanced deep cleaning and crowd control measures, we continue rolling out new safety protocols in our stores to protect our Team Members who are on the front lines serving our customers. Team Members in our stores and facilities also have access to up to two weeks of paid time off if they test positive for COVID or are quarantined, an additional $2 per hour on top of hourly base pay, and increased overtime pay. Whole Foods Market's longstanding open door policy encourages direct dialogue between Team Members and leadership, feedback which continues to shape the decisions we are making every day.
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