For years, Whole Foods has been seen as a luxurious, healthy option for Americans who are conscious about how they shop and what they eat. Considering that U.S. organic food sales amounted to $45.21 billion in 2017, it’s clear that the high-end grocery chain is doing something right. But now, the company has made headlines for what many see as a wrong move: the Amazon-owned organization has announced that, come January 1, they’ll no longer be providing health insurance benefit coverage for part-time workers.
The decision, which has shocked both employees and consumers alike, would theoretically leave 1,900 of the company’s 95,000 workers without insurance. While part-time workers make up a small percentage of Whole Foods employees, the news is more alarming when you consider the fact that, even among those who do have health insurance, 20% of Americans have difficulty paying their medical bills. Labor advocates have also criticized the move, saying that these healthcare cuts would basically cancel out the $15-an-hour minimum wage increase that Amazon announced last year for its workers. Whole Foods maintains that the change was put in place “to better meet the needs of our business and create a more equitable and efficient scheduling model” — whatever that means.
To their credit, Whole Foods has reportedly been trying to help part-time workers find full-time positions at its stores and assist them in figuring out other ways to obtain healthcare coverage. Under the policy, only those workers who clock 30 hours or more per week would be eligible for coverage through Whole Foods. But in an email from a Whole Foods representative to Inc.com, it sounds like the majority of employees would need to work only five extra hours per week to qualify (or one additional hour per weekday). For some, however, this change could represent several undue financial burdens.
Still, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that one report maintains the move could save the company $19 million each year. But considering the vitriol much of the general public has towards Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the move could prove to be a critical one.
One social media account that’s pushing Whole Foods workers to organize mentioned, “They already took our profit sharing. Now they’re coming for our healthcare.” Whole Foods’ customer service and employee treatment used to be selling points, despite the fact that the founder of the company openly rallied against union organizing. The shift is major when you understand that it takes only 10 seconds for people to form an impression of a brand — and now that corporate greed has seemed to enter the picture, consumers may decide to shop elsewhere.
Reports mention that things at Whole Foods haven’t been the same since Amazon acquired the company back in 2017. And while many of us rely on Amazon for quick shipping and convenient shopping, there’s no telling whether the grocery chain will survive — and be considered to be a top employer — if changes like this continue to occur.