Whole Foods employees protest, demand ‘hazard pay’ for working during crisis

Whole Foods employees protest, demand ‘hazard pay’ for working during crisis
Posted at 3:44 PM, Mar 31, 2020

Whole Foods employees are protesting their working conditions. They staged a mass “sick out” on Tuesday.

The group tweeted a list of requests for Amazon – which owns Whole Foods. It included guaranteed paid-leave for workers who self-quarantine, health care coverage for part-time and seasonal workers, and “hazard pay” that’s double what they normally are paid during scheduled hours.

Whole Foods has boosted pay by $2 an hour, but workers say that’s not enough.

"Hazard pay" is extra compensation when employees are required to work in potentially dangerous conditions. Human resources experts say it's something that wouldn't normally be considered for grocery store or warehouse workers.

That's changing because of the pandemic.

"The risk is elevated and it’s elevated now for way more jobs than we ever planned for,” said Scott Cawood, CEO of World at Work. “Like I said, working at a grocery store, we’re coming into contact with the public. Any of these jobs right now have bumped up the elevation of the dangerous level and would fit into what we think of hazard pay."

Some workers at these essential businesses are already receiving “hazard pay.” Big companies like Costco, Target and Walmart are giving employees extra cash. Others are looking at different ways to help.

"We’ve seen organizations, for example, sending toilet paper to employees, new childcare funds coming open, different types of bonuses being put in place to help,” said Cawood. “We’ve got transportation allowances happening all over. Many benefits that are happening right now are outside the traditional scope because this is such an extreme situation."

While many workers welcome the additional pay, some still don't feel comfortable going to work.

Congress is working on legislation that would allow employees to refuse hazard pay, but still be able to come back to work after this health crisis.