Whole Foods workers plan mass 'sick out' today over COVID-19 concerns

Posted at 5:22 AM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 06:46:39-04

(WXYZ) — A grassroots group of Whole Foods workers is calling for a national “sick out” today, in protest of what they call unsafe working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic.

The strike is organized by a group called “Whole Worker,” posting about their plans on social media.

Whole Foods around the country may see a smaller staff today — as a grassroots group of workers are calling for a national “sick out,” in protest of what they feel are unsafe working conditions during COVID-19.

The strike aims to force parent company Amazon to provide workers with additional benefits like hazard pay.

The group is also calling for guaranteed paid leave, health care coverage for seasonal and part-time workers, more money toward health costs and improved cleaning procedures at stores.

This comes after a national strike by some Instacart workers and employees of an Amazon warehouse in New York City.

There have been confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Amazon facilities around the country, including here in metro Detroit at plants in Shelby Township, Brownstown, and Romulus.

In California — Instacart workers are also protesting, launching a strike Monday.

“I make about an average of $200/week working full-time, and my new job is to stay alive using my mask that I shop in and getting my hands on any hand sanitizer I can find," said Matthew Telles, an Instacart worker in California.

Over the weekend, Instacart announced plans to provide new safety supplies to full-service shoppers – the last month being it’s busiest in company history, according to a spokesperson.

The company is also offering up to 14 days of pay for hourly workers for shoppers diagnosed with coronavirus or placed in quarantine.

For workers striking, it’s not enough.

“Be a leader take care of your company by taking care of your frontline workers for once," said Telles.

Amazon has increased hourly pay for workers by $2, and offered to give two weeks of paid sick leave for those who test positive for the virus.

Amazon has also said workers would not be penalized for calling out sick.

Instacart did release a statement to us, saying in part that health and safety is their priority and that they respect their workers rights to voice concerns.

“The health and safety of our entire community — shoppers, customers, and employees — is our first priority. Our goal is to offer a safe and flexible earnings opportunity to shoppers, while also proactively taking the appropriate precautionary measures to operate safely.

We’re focused on serving as an essential service for millions of families, while providing immediate earnings opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people across North America.

We respect the rights of shoppers to provide us feedback and voice their concerns. As it relates to today’s actions, we’ve seen absolutely no impact to Instacart’s operations.

Today, we saw 40% more shoppers on the platform compared to the same day and time last week. Over the last 72 hours, more groceries were sold on our platform than ever before.

In the last week alone, 250,000 new people signed up to become Instacart full-service shoppers and 50,000 of them have already started shopping on the platform. The sentiment of our shopper community continues to be incredibly important to us, and today our shopper satisfaction, as measured by Net Promoter Score (NPS), is the highest it’s ever been in company history.

We’re always committed to ensuring shoppers are fairly compensated for their efforts. Based on the rise in customer demand, shopper earnings have increased by more than 40% month-over-month and shoppers, on average, have also seen a 30% increase in customer tips.

In the last four weeks, Instacart has introduced more than 15 new product features, new health guidelines, new shopper bonuses, new sick leave policies, and new safety supplies, as well as pay for those affected by COVID-19.

Our team has an unwavering commitment to safely serve our shoppers in the wake of COVID-19, and we’ll continue to share additional updates over the coming days, weeks and months ahead as we further support this important community.”

7 Action News reporter Jenn Schanz requested an interview, and they declined.