Unrest is brewing among Whole Foods employees, as claims of the company cutting workers’ hours have surfaced. In November of 2018, Amazon raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour, as reported by our sister site, AndNowUKnow, which went into effect for Whole Foods employees as well. Now Whole Foods workers are claiming widespread cuts to their schedules, negating any wage increase, reported The Guardian.
While workers interviewed by The Guardian were hesitant to go on the record for fear of retaliation, they still had much to say on the topic.
“My hours went from 30 to 20 a week,” said one Whole Foods employee in Illinois.
The worker explained that before the minimum wage increase, part-time employees would work an average of 30 hours per week, with full-time employees working an average of 37.5 hours per week. But after the wage increase went into effect, part-time hours dropped to an average of 21 hours per week, and full-time hours dropped to an average of 34.5 hours per week. The worker backed their claim with work schedules from November 1, 2018 to the end of January, 2019, showing hours significantly decreased, while individual departments’ percentage of the entire store labor budget remained relatively the same, as reported by The Guardian.
“We just have to work faster to meet the same goals in less time,” the unnamed worker said.
“This hours cut makes that raise pointless as people are losing more than they gained, and we rely on working full shifts,” a Maryland worker told The Guardian, adding that regional management is responsible for forcing stores to cut down full-time employee schedules by about four hours per week.
“At my store all full-time team members are 36 to 38 hours per week now. So what workers do if they want a full 40 hours is take a little bit of their paid time off each week to fill their hours to 40. Doing the same thing myself,” an Oregon Whole Foods employee said to The Guardian.
Whole Foods has responded, stating that rumors of the company cutting employee hours as a result of the wage increase are just rumors.
"Claims that Whole Foods Market is reducing hours as a result of increased wages are false," a Whole Foods spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider. "In fact, on average, our full-time store team members worked the same number of hours in January and February 2019 as they did during the same period last year. 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.”
However, some workers have made claims that the cuts have led to understaffing issues, including longer lines and unattended customers because there are insufficient employees scheduled.
Worker frustration has led to a push in efforts to unionize. Several Whole Foods employees formed the group Whole Worker in September 2018 in an attempt to form a union, giving workers a resource to organize after the Amazon takeover, according to The Guardian. In response, Whole Foods began to train management to counter the union organization not long after the organization went public in an email to all U.S. Whole Foods employees.
"The reports of Amazon's Whole Foods cutting worker hours is the worst case of bait and switch I've ever seen," United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) President Marc Perrone said in a statement to Business Insider. "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."
With claims that the wage raise has been made pointless with the cutting of hours, some workers may be looking to jump ship.
“Just about every person on our team has complained about their hours being cut. Some have had to look for other jobs as they can’t make ends meet,” a California Whole Foods employee told The Guardian.
How will Amazon and Whole Foods address the concerns of their workers? And is unionization on the horizon? Deli Market News will keep you updated.