FILE PHOTO: A Whole Foods Market store is seen in Santa Monica, California, U.S. March 19, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A group of workers at Whole Foods Market called on others to phone in sick at all of the grocer’s stores on Tuesday to protest what they say is a lack of adequate compensation and protections from the coronavirus.
The group, known as Whole Worker on Twitter, describes itself as a grassroots movement of Whole Foods team members working to unionize.
The group did not immediately respond to a request for comment and it is not known how many Whole Foods employees called in sick. A representative for Amazon.com-owned Whole Foods did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As millions of people shelter in place in the United States and non-essential businesses are shuttered to halt the spread of the virus, grocery stores and pharmacies are staying open to supply food and medicine.
The Whole Worker group is demanding, among other things, hazard pay and the immediate shutdown of any location where a worker tests positive for COVID-19. If a store is closed, all workers should receive full pay until the store can safely reopen, according to the group’s Twitter account.
Total deaths from the virus in the United States hit 3,017, including at least 540 on Monday, and reported cases climbed to more than 163,000, according to a Reuters tally.
On Monday, warehouse, delivery and retail gig workers at Amazon.com (AMZN.O) and grocery delivery company Instacart in the United States went on strike to call attention to safety and wage concerns for people laboring through the coronavirus crisis.
Amazon said later it fired an employee who helped organize the action at a New York warehouse for alleged violations of his employment, including leaving a paid quarantine to participate in the demonstration.
Whole Foods employs 95,000 people and has 487 stores in the United States, 14 stores in Canada and 7 stores in the United Kingdom.
Reporting by Hilary Russ, additional reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; writing by Anna Driver; Editing by Steve Orlofsky