- A group of Whole Foods workers emailed nearly all of the grocer's employees yesterday urging them to unionize, according to the Wall Street Journal. According to the email, a copy of which was posted by The New Food Economy, workers are unhappy with current compensation and benefits and are concerned by recent layoffs. It notes these problems will worsen under Amazon's ownership. “There will continue to be layoffs in 2019 and beyond as Amazon aims to aggressively trim our labor force before it expands with new technology and labor models,” the email stated.
- The email calls for the creation of a "cross-regional" committee to address worker grievances with Whole Foods. It also calls for a $15 minimum wage, paid maternity leave, a matching 401k plan and other benefits.
- The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union is assisting the efforts of Whole Foods employees. The union has been in touch with Whole Foods prior but talks have become more frequent lately, the RWDSU told the Journal.
Some of Whole Foods’employees are looking to unionize, citing changes in benefits, day-to-day operational changes and profit-sharing since Amazon’s acquisition of the company. This isn’t the first time Whole Foods workers have pushed for union representation. But workers are now pointing to the pay gap between workers and managers, as well as layoffs the company has made as it's streamlined operations and come into the fold with Amazon.
The employees also noted the company no longer offers stock-option to lower level employees ever since Amazon’s takeover. For years prior to Amazon’s takeover, Whole Foods had offered employees annual stock options and almost 94% of the options were owned by employees outside of the c-suite, according to financial reports.
Just a few months after Amazon acquired it, Whole Foods employees came out to criticize a new “scorecard” system and an order-to-shelf system put in place. The "scorecards" are essentially checklists that serve as tests to ensure employees are following through with the new inventory-management system. However, this has resulted in many complaints from workers saying the system is too stringent. Both employees and consumers, meanwhile, grew frustrated with out-of-stock issues that impacted stores earlier this year.
Whole Foods, as it has in the past, came out against the most recent unionization efforts. “We offer competitive wages and benefits and are committed to the growth and success of our team members,” a Whole Foods spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal.
That's a tame response compared to the one offered up by CEO John Mackey, who once compared unions to herpes. In a 2013 interview with Yahoo Finance, Mackey said the company isn't so much anti-union as "beyond unions."
Things aren’t much different over at Amazon. The company has faced extreme criticism for its working conditions and treatment of employees since its early days. Four years ago, Amazon’s maintenance and repair technicians filed a petition which announced their intentions to create Amazon’s very first union, according to TIME. Amazon immediately hired a lawyer to put an end to it. A report published nearly 20 years ago highlighted Amazon’s internal system among managers instructing them on how to identify and end unionization efforts. The e-tailer has fired numerous workers for advocating union representation, the New York Times reported.
While the push for unionization and the companies' resistance are not new, a key difference could be the labor market. Unemployment rates are the lowest they’ve been in half a century, potentially giving employees more bargaining power over employers.