Whole Foods strike: Workers plan mass ‘sick-out’ over COVID-19 concerns

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A woman walks into a Whole Foods supermarket during hours reserved for customers 60 years and older to minimize contact with others as people social distance due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, at a store location in Washington, DC, March 20, 2020. – Whole Foods, like several other retailers, is reserving some hours for customers 60 years and older to minimize contact with others as people social distance due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – Whole Foods employees are organizing a nationwide “sick out” on Tuesday, March 31 if parent company Amazon doesn’t institute new measures to safeguard workers and increase pay during the coronavirus pandemic.

Whole Worker, a self-described “grassroots movement” of Whole Foods employees seeking to unionize, published a letter outlining the their demands: paid leave for all workers who isolate or self-quarantine, health care for part-time and seasonal workers, guaranteed hazard pay (double the normal rate), new policies to facilitate social distancing and immediate closure of any Whole Foods location where a worker tests positive for COVID-19.

On March 25, Amazon announced a $2-an-hour raise for all full- and part-time employees in the U.S. and Canada. Whole Foods workers will receive double their regular base rate for overtime hours between March 16 and May 3.

The retail behemoth said stores would have updated “social distancing guidelines” as well as increased hand sanitizer stations for customers and staff. Whole Foods workers diagnosed with COVID-19 are currently eligible for up to two weeks of pay while in quarantine.

Earlier this month, Amazon announced the hiring of 100,000 new positions to handle the increased customer demand related to the pandemic.

Whole Foods workers are not the only ones to organize in response to what they say is Amazon’s failure to protect those in the company who are most at risk of contracting coronavirus.

Workers at a New York Amazon warehouse walked off the job Monday in protest of the company’s handling of a recent COVID-19 case at the Staten Island facility.

Workers at grocery delivery company Instacart also pledged to strike Monday, demanding hazard pay fees, increased safety equipment and paid leave for those with pre-existing health conditions who have been advised by a doctor not to work.

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