A group of employees asked stores for their support in a recent email.

By Mike Pomranz
September 06, 2018
Courtesy of Whole Foods

No matter how you feel about the Amazon-Whole Foods merger, one thing is inevitably true: The corporate culture of Amazon and the corporate culture of pre-buyout Whole Foods were very different. Amazon has long accepted its desire to be a shopping behemoth; Whole Foods, on the other hand, often endeavored to promote business ideals that matched the upmarket products it pushed. So now that Amazon is at the wheel, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that some Whole Foods’ employees aren’t happy with the changes—or that talk of unionization is starting to emerge.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a group of Whole Foods’ workers sent out an email to most of the grocery brand’s 490 stores today seeking support for their desire to unionize. The message reportedly stated that these employees want to “collectively voice our concerns to Whole Foods Market and Amazon leadership” about the need for better pay, benefits and profit sharing. The effort is apparently backed by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which is based in New York City and boasts around 100,000 members across the country.

“The RWDSU stands with workers in precarious positions no matter what—Amazon and Whole Foods workers are no different,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the union, told the WSJ. “We will not back down until Amazon workers are treated with dignity and respect.”

As the WSJ points out, Whole Foods was indeed one of the better-paying grocery stores out there, with employees earning $20.15 per hour on average—or nearly $42,000 per year—as of 2016. And at the time, even nonexecutive employees were offered stock, a practice that has reportedly been significantly cut since Amazon took over. This issue was apparently specifically mentioned in the message unionization advocates emailed out. “The clandestine nature of Amazon offering stock options to store leadership without informing [other employees] is beyond problematic,” the email was quoted as saying. “It is insulting and unethical.”

Of course, talking about unionizing is one thing; actually making it happen is far more difficult. However, the fact that vestiges still remain from the Whole Foods of old would seem to add an interesting twist to the situation.

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