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"With the amount Jeff Bezos makes in one day, he could shut stores down and pay employees to stay safe," a former employee said.
Employees of Whole Foods, which is owned by the richest person on the planet Jeff Bezos, were asked to give their own accumulated paid sick days to their co-workers forced to stop working because of the new coronavirus pandemic.
The executives of the grocery chain proposed employees to do so knowing the company is able to give its workers unlimited paid sick leave during what has been declared a national emergency in the United States (U.S.).
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said in an email sent Wednesday to staffers that one of the options available to face the coronavirus crisis was to put their “paid time off” (PTO) days into a pool that other workers could take from.
“Team Members who have a medical emergency or death in their immediate family can receive donated PTO hours, not only from Team Members in their own location but also from Team Members across the country," Mackey wrote in the email.
“As a subsidiary of Amazon, the world's biggest company, Whole Foods could easily afford to pay its hourly employees for sick days taken during the coronavirus outbreak without breaking the bank. Instead, the company has put the onus back on workers, and they're not happy about it," Journalist Lauren Kaori Gurley, who broke the story for Motherboard, said.
Although such practices are not uncommon among workers in various sectors and industries to help each other out; doing so during a global pandemic shocked many critics who considered the move as unacceptable and cruel. The fact that the company’s owner is the wealthiest person on earth added to the outrage.
"Runaway capitalism is when Whole Foods suggests employees trade vacation time to address coronavirus rather than offer paid leave, all while the CEO rakes in US$15 million a year in stocks, benefits, and more," said Trish Zornio, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate in Colorado this year.
"You've got the richest man in the world asking people who are living paycheck to paycheck to donate to each other," Matthew Hunt, a former Whole Foods employee who led a drive to unionize Whole Foods workers, told Motherboard. "That's absolute bullshit. With the amount Jeff Bezos makes in one day, he could shut stores down and pay employees to stay safe."