Whole Foods Market is reducing paid breaks from 15 minutes to 10 minutes for many of its more than 90,000 workers, with the policy shift coming as retail and other front-line employees contend with surgingcases in their communities.
Workers at Whole Foods stores in Southern California, the Mid-Atlantic, the Midwest and the South who'd previously been given 15 minute breaks during their shifts will now get 10 minutes of paid down time instead.
A group of Whole Food employees called Whole Worker Union called out the new rules on social media, saying the time now being allowed for breaks includes "coming and returning from the break room."
Whole Foods' workers in many states get two paid breaks during a typical eight and a half hour shift. They'll now have 10 minutes less to rest each work day.
The upscale grocery chain and Amazon subsidiary confirmed the new rules, saying the goal is to make break policies uniform for all its employees at 487 stores in 12 regions. Workers previously had differing break times. Now, the same rest- and meal-break rules will apply to all, according to the company.
Most Whole Food workers will benefit from the change, according to the grocery chain.
"This updated policy will provide the vast majority of team members with more break time throughout their work day. It is part of our ongoing work to streamline regional policies and processes in order to create clear and uniform policies for Team Members across all regions," a Whole Foods spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch in an email.
The move comes roughly eight months after Whole Foods cut the extra $2 an hour in "hazard pay" for employees coming to work during the pandemic. Amazon in June announced $500 bonuses for workers, including at Whole Foods.
Grocery store deaths
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which does not represent Whole Foods workers, on Tuesday said a new surge in grocery COVID outbreaks — specifically in Southern California and the Seattle area — have heightened the risks facing workers.
Among the UFCW's members, there have been at least 124 grocery worker deaths from COVID-19 and at least 23,100 workers infected or exposed, the union stated in an email.
Like many other companies, Amazon and its subsidiary don't disclose the number of employees who've died or been infected by COVID-19.
One former employee, Katie Doan, was fired from her job stocking shelves at a Whole Foods in Tustin, California, in late May after leaving work for 45 minutes due to a panic attack. Doan, who'd started tracking cases of COVID at Whole Foods in April, told The Associated Press that she believes her outspokenness played a role, while Whole Foods said Doan's leaving her post was the sole reason for her dismissal.
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