- Whole Foods has denied reducing employee hours following parent company Amazon's starting wage increase to $15 an hour in November, Business Insider reported. The grocer said employees worked the same number of hours in January and February as they did the same period last year.
- The Guardian had previously reported that the company had cut workers' hours. The report was based on a leaked company email and input from anonymous employees. Workers told The Guardian that the reduced hours have led to under-staffing issues.
- "We are proud to have increased the hourly wage for all store team members, and we will continue to schedule labor hours based on individual store needs to create the best experience for our team members and customers," the Whole Foods spokesperson told Business Insider.
As the biggest name in natural foods retailing, Whole Foods' treatment of its workers has always been under the microscope. The chain doesn't always respond to calls for improvement or accusations that it's not doing enough, but the fact that it responded in this case indicates just how influential The Guardian's report has been with consumers and employees.
In February, approximately 20,000 jobs were created and the national unemployment rate fell to 3.8%. Unemployment hovered below 4% for much of 2018, and retailers across the board have struggled to find and retain employees. To combat this trend, Whole Foods' parent company Amazon increased starting wages to $15 for all employees and bumped up pay by $1 for employees already making more than $15. Team leaders saw a $2 increase to their hourly pay.
The plan elicited grumblings from the start, and Whole Foods employees have been vocal about their concerns that Amazon is introducing unfriendly labor practices. Employee complaints also surfaced back in September, when workers attempted to unionize to push for better work benefits, pay and profit-sharing.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union has called out Whole Foods and Amazon in a statement. "The reports of Amazon's Whole Foods cutting worker hours is the worst case of bait and switch I've ever seen," UFCW Marc Perrone said. "Just months ago, they told the American people and their workers that they were raising their minimum wage to $15 per hour. But now it appears that this was all a public relations stunt as they are now cutting worker hours — which is a cruel pay cut, plain and simple."
While some Whole Foods employees dislike the recent changes, others have welcomed them, according to Business Insider, which interviewed more than two dozen employees late last year.
Other grocers in the industry are introducing pay raises along with extra perks to keep workers happy. Southeastern Grocers has recently improved its training program to focus on a personalized and innovative teaching approach. Last year, Kroger introduced "Feed Your Future," a program that provides funds for employees pursuing any degree.