Sunday, July 02, 2017 by Isabelle Z.
Amazon looks set to take over Whole Foods, and while some people think the internet retail giant could use its technological prowess to improve the grocery store’s services, there is one group that is viewing the change with much less optimism: Whole Foods cashiers and other employees.
It is believed that Amazon wants to position the chain to compete with stores like Walmart and target middle- to lower-income consumers, and one of the big ways they could bring prices down is by minimizing labor.
Amazon made waves with its Amazon Go store last year, which removed cashiers from the equation entirely. Instead, technology monitored customers and recorded their purchases, charging them automatically as they left the store with carts full of food. While Amazon has said this approach isn’t planned for Whole Foods, the internet firm is known for operating at razor-thin margins, which means that they probably would not be opposed to handing a few employees their walking papers.
However, holding onto their jobs might not be the stroke of good luck it appears if the way Amazon treats its current employees is any indication. Workers have filed several lawsuits over their wages in the past few years, which are so low that distribution center employees in some of its locations live in homeless shelters. Amazon’s harsh work culture has been described by employees as a “soul-crushing experience,” where workers are urged to tear each other’s ideas apart in meetings and are berated via text at all hours for not answering late-night work-related emails.
According to an unflattering profile in the New York Times, the environment at Amazon is cut-throat and employees are encouraged to turn on one another. Some workers complained of being pushed out or evaluated unfairly following personal crises like miscarriages or illness instead of being allowed some time to recover. The workplace is so demanding that a popular saying there is “Amazon is where overachievers go to feel bad about themselves.”
A former book marketer for the firm, Bo Olson, told The Times that he saw nearly every person he worked with cry at their desk at least once, and that grown men crying as they left conference rooms was a common sight there. The company also came under fire when employees in a Pennsylvania warehouse were forced to work in temperatures that exceeded 100 degrees while ambulances waited outside to take them away as they fell; they only installed air conditioning after being outed for this practice by a local newspaper.
There are likely many more stories of the type of corporate environment Whole Foods workers might expect when Amazon takes the helm, but the extensive confidentiality agreements that even low-level workers must sign means many are understandably reluctant to come forward.
The fate of Whole Foods employees is just one concerning aspect of this deal. There’s also the fact that Amazon and Whole Foods both sell foods that are contaminated with heavy metals. Making matters worse, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post. That publication’s fondness for supporting Monsanto makes it seem likely that Whole Foods could choose to abandon its promise to label the GMO status of all the food it sells by next year. This move does not seem like a positive one for workers or customers of Whole Foods. The only winner in this deal, it appears, is Amazon itself.
Find more news on whole foods at WholeFoods.news.