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  • View of one of the Whole Foods supermarkets in Brooklyn, New York, United States, Jun. 16, 2017.

    View of one of the Whole Foods supermarkets in Brooklyn, New York, United States, Jun. 16, 2017. | Photo: EFE

Published 6 March 2019

Workers' monthly incomes have worsened since parent company Amazon established a higher minimum wage.

Following public pressure Amazon, raised its minimum wage to US$15 an hour, a decision which was expected to improve the lives of workers by giving them livable wages. At Whole Foods, acquired by Amazon, after barely 4 months, the benefits of that decision were counteracted with other tactics aimed at maintaining high levels of corporate profitability.

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"My [working] hours went from 30 to 20 a week," a Whole Foods part-time employee told The Guardian, which reported that full-time employees decreased their average weekly working term from 37.5 to 34.5 hours.

In November of 2017, Amazon acquired Whole Foods for US$13.7 billion and took control of its 460 grocery stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Besides being the largest financial operation performed by Bezos up to that point, this acquisition allowed Amazon to enter traditional retail game, which would likely offer high returns into the future, since people will likely keep shopping at physical stores for organic foods and products.

At Maryland Whole Foods stores, employees' average working hours have also decreased.

"This hours cut makes that raise pointless as people are losing more than they gained," an employee told The Guardian and explained that such cuts affect mostly those who have to work full shifts to be able to make more money in order to fulfill their family's needs.

The Guardian also reported that Amazon workers will not be able to improve their income through stock vesting plans or bonuses because the company also cut those benefits.

This type of big business strategy counteracts the social effects of the "Fight for $15," a movement that is struggling to increase the US$7.25 federal minimum wage.

In September of 2018, Amazon had accrued many critics, one of the most vocal being U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who introduced the Stop Bezos Act, (Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies) with Representative Ro Khanna of California. The proposed U.S. legislation would tax corporations the equivalent of the amount their low-wage workers receive in welfare programs, such as food stamps.

Amazon has been under sustained fire over labor practices including low wages, harsh working conditions, and tax practices which saw the company pay zero taxes on “third party” sellers.

The company's public policy team announced that they will also become "advocates" for a U.S. federal minimum wage increase, however, the real world affects are apparent in the take home pay of each of its workers. 

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