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“We cannot wait for politicians, institutions, or our own management to step in to protect us,” Whole Worker, the national group organizing the “sick-out” wrote in a statement.
Workers from Amazon’s Whole Foods will stage Tuesday a national 'sick out' to demand paid leave for all workers who stay home or self-quarantine during the coronavirus crisis, free coronavirus testing for all employees, and a doubling of the hazard pay for those who continue to work.
“COVID-19 is a very real threat to the safety of our workforce and customers,” Whole Worker, the national group organizing the strike wrote in a statement.
“We cannot wait for politicians, institutions, or our own management to step in to protect us.”
The move was decided after reports came out that workers at several Whole Foods stores in the United States, including in New York City, Chicago, Louisiana, and California contracted the virus.
During the past few weeks, the company increased pay by US$2 an hour, offered to provide two weeks of paid sick leave to workers who test positive for COVID-19, and said it would not call to account workers for calling out sick.
But many employees say the measures taken by Whole Foods are not as bold as the situation is serious and fail to protect workers who for many do not have enough savings to stay home even if they’re sick.
We call on all Whole Foods Market employees to engage in a mass sick out on:
“You can’t tell someone not to go to work if they’re sick if they have to pay their rent in two days,” a Whole Foods worker in Chicago and organizer of the “sick-out” who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, told Motherboard.
“Our Whole Foods staff is on a skeleton crew right now. It’s the people who want to be working or the people who have no choice that are showing up. The portion of our workforce with any money in the bank is absent. Given the instability in our workforce, it gives me doubts that safety measures are carried out.”
Another employee in New England who also wished to remain anonymous told Motherboard that their doctor asked them to quarantine for two weeks after they experienced coronavirus symptoms, but Whole Foods refused the doctor’s note or to provide a sick leave because the symptoms were not severe enough to get a test.
“My doctor asked me to quarantine for two weeks and I haven’t been able to get paid time off,” the worker said. “Whole Foods said we wouldn’t get it unless we got a positive test. There are a lot of people in my situation who aren’t receiving time off. It’s hard to imagine that those who couldn’t afford to do so would stay home. Whole Foods says if you’re feeling better, you should come to work.”
Tuesday’s strike will mark the first national collective action led by workers at the company since its creation 40 years ago.