Today employees at Whole Foods Market SoMa store in San Francisco are standing together: stopping work to deliver a petition demanding a $5/hour raise for all workers.

Whole Foods workers picket their shop in SoMa, San Francisco

Whole Foods workers picket their shop in SoMa, San Francisco

Workers at Whole Foods Market have grown tired of the company’s rapid expansion fuelled by cuts to benefits and suppressed wages.

As the cost of living in San Francisco soars, workers need 2 and 3 jobs just make ends meet.

Support them by signing their petition here:

Sign

This afternoon a delegation of 20 cashiers, stockers, and cooks at Whole Foods Market initiated a temporary work stoppage to deliver a petition to Whole Foods management demanding a $5 an hour wage increase for all employees and no retaliation against workers for organizing a union. After the delegation presented the petition to management, workers and supporters held a rally outside the store, located at 4th and Harrison Streets in San Francisco’s South-of-Market district.

A worker must earn $29.83 an hour to afford a market-rate one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, according to a 2014 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Workers at the store currently earn from $11.25 to $19.25 per hour. The new minimum wage ordinance just approved by San Francisco voters will raise the City’s minimum to $12.25 an hour next year, less than half of what is needed to rent an apartment.

Over 50 workers from the 4th Street store signed the petition. In addition to demanding the $5 per hour wage increase, the petition raises issues about paid time off, hours and scheduling, safety and health, and a retirement plan.

Whole Foods workers have demanded a response from Whole Foods by November 14, when their next paychecks are due. If management fails to respond, workers will begin taking job actions.

Whole Foods is a multinational chain with over 400 stores in the US, Canada and Great Britain, with $13 billion in annual sales, and 80,000 employees. Prices are high, which is why Whole Foods is colloquially known as Whole Paycheck.

Beneath Whole Foods’ glossy image of social responsibility, “working conditions at Whole Foods reflect the low industry standards that dominate all food and retail industries,” according to the workers’ website. Despite the company’s claims to the contrary, “low wages, constant understaffing, [and] inconsistent schedules” are rampant company-wide. Just recently CEO John Mackey announced that the company would be phasing out full-time positions for new hires. Meanwhile, workers say the company has forced them to shoulder more and more of the costs of their limited health benefits.

Whole Foods currently has over 100 stores in development. Case Garver, a buyer in the Prepared Foods department, has seen enough of the doublespeak. “It seems like every 6 months they open up a brand new store,” he stated, “while at the same time my manager turns around and says the company doesn’t have enough money to give us 40 hours a week. We’re tired of doing more with less.”

Azalia Martinez, a cashier at the store, relates that in addition to working full time for Whole Foods, going to school and fulfilling family obligations, she must take additional side jobs to make ends meet. “It’s extremely hard,” she says.

Despite the hardships, workers at the store know that they can win better wages by standing together. “History proves that workers have the power to make change when we come together to fight for our interests. We are re-igniting a workers’ movement where we have power: on the job. […] This is our movement, we are capable of victory, and we are worth it.”

The action was organized by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a worker-led labor union uniting diverse members from several industries throughout the world. Founded over a century ago, the IWW raises the quality of life for workers today while laying the foundation for a society without classes.

 


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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