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Group calls for sickout of Whole Foods workers in an effort to improve working conditions

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Posted at 8:27 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 20:57:09-04

A group called "Whole Worker" is requesting Whole Foods Market to make administrative changes to improve working conditions and pay for the grocery chain's employees.

To force the issue, Whole Worker is calling for a mass sickout of Whole Foods employees on Tuesday. The group was originally calling for the sickout to be held on May 1.

Grocery store workers are being told to go to work as they're considered essential employees, while non-essential employees are being told to stay or work from home to prevent the spread of the virus.

Among the demands, Whole Worker is requesting:

-Guaranteed paid leave for all workers who isolate or self-quarantine instead of coming to work.

-Reinstatement of health care coverage for part-time and seasonal workers.

-Increased FSA funds to cover coronavirus testing and treatment for all team members, including part-time and seasonal.

-Guaranteed hazard pay in the form of double pay during our scheduled hours.

-Implementation of new policies that can facilitate social distancing between workers and customers.

-Commitment to ensuring that all locations have adequate sanitation equipment and procedures in place.

-Immediate shutdown of any location where a worker tests positive for COVID-19. In such an event, all workers should continue to receive full pay until the store can safely reopen.

In response to the demands, Whole Foods issued the following statement:

"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."

Whole Foods is not the only company to extend paid sick leave for employees who have COVID-19 symptoms. Kroger and Walmart also have announced paid leave for workers with coronavirus symptoms.