Amazon Jeff Bezos Cuts Health Benefits for Part-Time Whole Foods Workers

The Amazon-owned supermarket chain Whole Foods announced Thursday that it will cut medical benefits for almost 2,000 part-time workers starting in January 2020. 

"I am in shock," said an employee who asked for anonymity to avoid retribution for speaking out, adding that she’s "worked here 15 years. This is why I keep the job—because of my benefits."

The decision will affect 1,900 of the business's 95,000 workers, those who work part-time, or around 20 hours a week. 

"We are providing team members with resources to find alternative healthcare coverage options, or to explore full-time, healthcare-eligible positions starting at 30 hours per week," a Whole Foods spokesperson told Business Insider who broke the story.

The move surprised many as owner Jeff Bezos, the richest man in modern history whose net worth just crossed the US$150 billion mark, and other several tech CEOs signed a pledge committing to invest in their employees and support the communities they operate in.

"Each of our stakeholders is essential," the pledge read. "We commit to deliver value to all of them, for the future success of our companies, our communities, and our country."

Yet deteriorating labor conditions are not new for Bezos’ companies. 

In March 2019, following public pressure, Amazon raised its minimum wage to US$15 an hour, a decision that was expected to improve the lives of workers by giving them livable wages. However, at Whole Foods, the benefits of that decision were counteracted with other tactics aimed at maintaining high levels of corporate profitability. 

"My [working] hours went from 30 to 20 a week," a Whole Foods part-time employee told The Guardian back in March, which reported that full-time employees decreased their average weekly working term from 37.5 to 34.5 hours. Now, these workers will have their health benefits slashed as well. 

In November of 2017, Amazon acquired Whole Foods for US$13.7 billion and took control of its 460 grocery stores in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

"The Whole Foods decision is not just hypocritical of Bezos, but also proves why workers should never put too much trust in kind words from CEOs and instead push for lasting changes to uphold their interests and those of their coworkers," Business Insider columnist Bob Bryan wrote.