SEATTLE - Amazon is cutting health care benefits for employees working less than 30 hours a week at its Whole Foods Market subsidiary beginning next year, a move that union organizers highlighted to bolster their claims that conditions at the company are deteriorating.
Less than 2% of employees - about 1,900 people - who currently buy medical coverage through the company will no longer be able to do so as a result, according to a Whole Foods spokeswoman. Business Insider first reported the cuts Thursday.
"In order to better meet the needs of our business and create a more equitable and efficient scheduling model, we are moving to a single-tier part-time structure," Whole Foods said in a statement.
The company pledged to help employees find alternative coverage options "or to explore full-time, healthcare-eligible positions starting at 30 hours per week."
A group of Whole Foods workers began a union organizing push in 2018, a little more than a year after Amazon bought the organic grocer for $13.5 billion, its largest acquisition. Amazon gained a chain that has some 500 physical retail locations and about 95,000 employees, accelerating its push into the grocery business.
A social media account associated with the Whole Foods organizing push tweeted about the benefits cuts Thursday: "They already took our profit sharing. Now they're coming for our healthcare."
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Marc Perrone, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which has campaigned to represent Amazon employees in New York, called the benefits cuts "one of Jeff Bezos' most brazen attacks on the quality of jobs at Whole Foods and the communities they support." The union does not currently represent workers at Whole Foods, a spokesman confirmed.
Even before Amazon's acquisition, Whole Foods founder and CEO John Mackey railed against labor organizers, and positioned Whole foods as "beyond unions" in part because of its benefits and corporate values. The company touts healthcare benefits as an important part of the package it offers employees.
Whole Foods said part-time employees remain eligible for other benefits, including a retirement savings plan, paid time off and company discounts.
Last fall, a group of Whole foods workers sent an email to colleagues alleging that conditions at the company had worsened since Amazon's acquisition and calling out what they described as anti-union materials distributed to company managers. They sought a $15-an-hour minimum wage, which Amazon implemented for all employees later in 2018, improved retirement benefits and reduced health insurance costs, among other things.
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