Whole Foods workers want to unionize before they are displaced

Just another node for Amazon to automate.
Just another node for Amazon to automate.
Image: AP Photo/Matt York
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On Thursday (Sep. 6), a group of Whole Foods employees sent an email to co-workers at all 490 stores, urging them to support an effort to unionize. The proposed union would seek better compensation and benefits in the wake of worsening conditions since Amazon bought the organics grocer last year.

“We cannot let Amazon remake the entire North American retail landscape without embracing the full value of its team members,” the workers wrote in the letter. “The success of Amazon and [Whole Foods] should not come at the cost of exploiting our dedication and threatening our economic stability.”

While the letter calls for a $15 minimum wage and lower health insurance deductibles for all employees, there’s a more existential threat that Whole Foods workers ought to be worried about.

Ever since Amazon bought Whole Foods for $13.7 billion last June, it has attempted to infuse the stores with its efficient, data-driven approach to business. In practice, the Wall Street Journal reports, this has meant hundreds of layoffs (paywall).

As Amazon continues to run new experiments like its AI-powered Amazon Go Store that allows customers to shop without having to check out with a cashier, the company will undoubtedly continue to trim its Whole Foods labor force.

Amazon’s threat to other retailers and the wealth of founder Jeff Bezos have made the company a political target in the US for both the left and the right, but so far the rhetoric doesn’t seem to be hurting Amazon’s business or its share price. Earlier this week, Amazon, whose explicit mission is “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company,” became the second company ever (after Apple) to reach a market value above $1 trillion.

In regard to the unionizing efforts, Whole Foods told Quartz in a statement: ”We respect the individual rights of our team members and have an open-door policy that encourages team members to bring their comments, questions and concerns directly to their team leaders… We offer competitive wages and benefits and are committed to the growth and success of our team members.”

You can read the full letter from the workers below.

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