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Whole Foods Worker Sends Mass Email Calling for Hazard Pay

Plus, Pepsi is making a ‘Cocoa’ Cola, and more news to start your day

Exterior of a Whole Foods Market, beige stone building with pumpkin display outside Shutterstock
Jaya Saxena is a Correspondent at, and the series editor of Best American Food and Travel Writing. She explores wide ranging topics like labor, identity, and food culture.

An email sent to all Whole Foods team members reads, “Whole Foods does not have team members’ well being at heart.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, grocers around the country instituted things like hazard pay and benefits, paying workers more and allowing them more flexible sick time in recognition of the risk they faced. Most of those benefits quietly ended in the summer, and though the pandemic’s winter wave is the worst it’s ever been, grocery workers no longer have the same protections or pay at the majority of places.

Whole Worker, an organization of Whole Foods employees, published an email sent by a Detroit worker to all team members yesterday, demanding the reinstatement of things like $2/hr extra in hazard pay, health benefits for part-time employees, and the old dress policy which allowed workers to wear shirts supporting campaigns like Black Lives Matter. It also calls for expanded PTO, and requiring all customers wear masks in the store.

“There has been no effort made by Jeff Bezos or John Mackey to spread their immense wealth back to the workers (their wealth has in fact grown enormously during the pandemic),” writes the Detroit employee. “They are more than able to redistribute some form of payments to workers whether it be retroactive hazard pay, better benefits, free PTO for sick team members, or all of the above.” Though Amazon, Whole Foods’s parent company, has repeatedly blocked workers’ efforts to form a union, the email says union pins will be distributed to workers to show support for these demands.

A spokesperson told Business Insider that “[w]e are listening to the feedback of our team members and continue to look for sustainable and meaningful ways to help ease the impact COVID-19 has had on all our stakeholders.” They went on to say that the company was investing $450 million into safety measures and benefits.

However, it’s clear to workers that the investment is too little, too late, and that Bezos has plenty of money to meet workers’ demands. “Amazon and Whole Foods could provide us with the benefits we need, but they choose not to in order to save money for the very few who own the company,” reads the email.

And in other news...

  • Surprise, surprise: it wasn’t worker behavior, but structural problems that spread COVID in meat processing plants. [The Counter]
  • Food video company Tastemade is acquiring ChefsFeed. [The Spoon]
  • Pepsi is making a “cocoa” cola, with flavors of chocolate and marshmallow, but only in a limited quantity. [The Takeout]
  • Coca-Cola is cutting 2,200 jobs, with over half of those being in the U.S. [CNN]
  • McDonald’s investors are calling for the resignation of two board members over the handling of the investigation into former CEO Steve Easterbrook. [Bloomberg]
  • Third-party delivery services like DoorDash and Grubhub might not do so well if everyone’s favorite restaurants close. [WSJ]
  • A curse for your weekend:

Update at December 18, 2020, 1:00pm: The headline has been changed to reflect that the Whole Foods employee email was not sent company-wide.