Whole Foods Slashes Worker Hours Four Months After $15 Minimum Wage Increase: Report

Just four months after Amazon enacted a $15 minimum wage for all its employees on November 1, subsidiary Whole Foods is slashing worker hours, according to The Guardian.

Whole Foods employees told The Guardian that the hourly raises are often negated by the reduced schedule.

“My hours went from 30 to 20 a week,” said one Illinois Whole Foods employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation. “We just have to work faster to meet the same goals in less time.

The Illinois-based worker explained that once the $15 minimum wage was enacted, part-time employee hours at their store were cut from an average of 30 to 21 hours a week, and full-time employees saw average hours reduced from 37.5 hours to 34.5 hours. The worker provided schedules from 1 November to the end of January 2019, showing hours for workers in their department significantly decreased as the department’s percentage of the entire store labor budget stayed relatively the same. –The Guardian

The shift cuts are “the direct result of guidance from our regional team,” according to an internal email shared by one employee.

A Maryland Whole Foods worker added that their regional management team has forced stores to reduce full-time employee schedules by 4 hours, to 36 hours per week. “This hours cut makes that raise pointless as people are losing more than they gained and we rely on working full shifts,” said the employee.

An Oregon employee added “At my store all full-time team members are 36 to 38 hours per week now. So what workers do if they want a full 40 hours is take a little bit of their paid time off each week to fill their hours to 40. Doing the same thing myself.”

The cuts have also resulted in staffing shortfalls, according to some employees. “Things that have made it more noticeable are the long lines, the need to call for cashier and bagging assistance, and customers not being able to find help in certain departments because not enough are scheduled, and we are a big store,” said one California Whole Foods employee.

Just about every person on our team has complained about their hours being cut. Some have had to look for other jobs as they can’t make ends meet,” they added.

“There are many team members working at Whole Foods today whose total compensation is actually less than what it was before the wage increase due to these labor reductions,” said a spokesperson from Whole Foods employee advocacy group, Whole Worker. The group formed following the Amazon acquisition with the goal of forming a union and providing workers with the means to organize. Shortly after the formation of Whole Worker, Whole Foods began training management to resist union organization with a series of training videos.

In a statement to Fast Company, Whole Foods denied the workers’ claims, saying: “Our full-time store Team Members averaged the same number of hours in January and February 2019 as they did during the same time last year. We are proud to have increased the hourly wage for all store Team Members, and we will continue to schedule labor hours based on individual store needs to create the best experience for our Team Members and customers.” The company did not address the effect on part-time workers.

Also noted is that several parts of the country have passed legislation protecting workers from the type of shift slashing contained in the Guardian report.

This move could cast a shadow on broader minimum wage initiatives, becoming another data point for the argument that raising the minimum wage will actually lower worker pay. But that’s a choice on the company’s part, and one anticipated by the cities that have passed minimum wage increases. Several jurisdictions that have enacted a $15 minimum wage, including Seattle and San Francisco, have passed “fair workweek” legislation that protects hourly employees against the kind of shift slashing that’s happening at Whole Foods. And a study last year on the minimum wage in Seattle found that it has improved take-home pay for most hourly workers. –Fast Company

In February of last year, we reported that miserable Whole Foods employees reported being in constant fear of losing their jobs as the company rolled out “Order-To-Shelf” (OTS) scorecards which contianed “a strict set of procedures for purchasing, displaying, and storing products on store shelves and in back rooms. To make sure stores comply, Whole Foods relies on “scorecards” that evaluate everything from the accuracy of signage to the proper recording of theft, or “shrink.”

I wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares about maps and inventory, and when regional leadership is going to come in and see one thing wrong, and fail the team,” a supervisor at a West Coast Whole Foods told Business Insider. “The stress has created such a tense working environment. Seeing someone cry at work is becoming normal.”

News of Whole Foods slashing hours comes as grocery giant Kroger missed earnings and slashed their outlook, sending shares plummeting over 13% on Thursday.