Whole Foods workers demand double coronavirus hazard pay with 'sick out'

Whole Foods' coronavirus response includes unlimited call-outs for workers who are unable or unwilling to work

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Some Whole Foods employees are demanding double hazard pay because of the coronavirus pandemic with a so-called sick out planned for Tuesday.

"On March 31st, DO NOT GO TO WORK," a group called Whole Worker wrote in an online petition. "Whole Foods has temporarily relaxed its strict attendance policy, which means that team members can participate in this act of protest without fear of reprisal."

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Whole Foods' coronavirus response includes unlimited call-outs for workers who are unable or unwilling to work, plus an additional $2 per hour on top of hourly base pay.

It's unclear how many Whole Foods employees are participating in the sick out. Whole Worker's demands also include the immediate shutdown of any location where a worker tests positive for coronavirus and guaranteed paid leave for all workers who isolate instead of coming to work.

A cashier wears gloves while scanning the groceries of a customer at a Whole Foods in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on March 24. (Photo by Erin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

"We have taken extensive measures to keep people safe, and in addition to social distancing, enhanced deep cleaning and crowd control measures, we continue rolling out new safety protocols in our stores to protect our Team Members who are on the front lines serving our customers," a Whole Foods Market spokesperson told FOX Business in a statement.

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Some social media users expressed support for the sick out and said they would not shop at Whole Foods. Twitter user Steven I. Weiss said he'd only shop at Whole Foods if they met the Whole Worker demands.

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"If Whole Foods provides these things for their employees, I pledge to only buy groceries from Whole Foods (I currently almost never do) until/unless other providers match them," Weiss wrote. "Take the #HazardPay pledge with me."

Whole Foods workers are from the only ones asking for higher pay and other benefits as they work through the pandemic. A five-year Amazon employee was fired Monday after staging a small walkout at a Staten Island warehouse over conditions (Whole Foods is owned by Amazon). Some Instacart shoppers also planned a strike on Monday, although the grocery delivery company told FOX Business it saw an increase, not a decline, of shoppers on the app that day.

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., weighed in on the strikes on Monday.

"First Instacart, then Amazon, now Whole Foods: workers are withholding their labor [and] demanding dignity," Ocasio-Cortez wrote. "When people work an hourly job, it's suggested in many ways that you're unimportant or expendable. Except you aren't. Everyone deserves safe work, paid leave, [and] a living wage."

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