Jeff Bezos is coming under fire after his company Whole Foods told healthy employees that they should consider donating their paid sick time to fellow co-workers who fall ill amid the coronavirus outbreak, an announcement that is drawing outrage.
As Raw Story reported, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey sent a letter to employees explaining the options they would have as the coronavirus impacts the store and its workers. The letter said that one of these options was for workers to “donate” their paid time off to a pool that could be used for other employees who are in greater need. This pool could also be used by workers who experience a death in their immediate family, the letter stated.
As Vice journalist Lauren Kaori Gurley pointed out, Whole Foods is now a subsidiary of Amazon after a merger in 2017, meaning the company has more than enough resources to pay its hourly employees for any sick days they may need during the outbreak.
“Instead, the company has put the onus back on workers, and they’re not happy about it,” Gurley wrote, via Raw Story.
Many also pointed out that Bezos himself had the wealth to cover paid time off for employees who were struck by the coronavirus or needed to care for sick family members. In February, Forbes put Bezos’ net worth at $126.9 billion, a significant jump after he sold $4 billion worth of Amazon stock in the last few weeks. That put Bezos more than $14 billion ahead of Bill Gates as the richest man in the world.
Despite the outrage, the practice of sharing paid time off is nothing new to the natural food chain. As Eater noted, Whole Foods has employed a “donation” program since the 1980s to help share sick time that would have otherwise gone unused.
But the report added that other retail and restaurant chains have announced more generous offerings for those affected by the coronavirus. McDonald’s has offered up to 14 days of paid sick leave to any employees who need to be quarantined, and Starbucks is extending what it calls its “catastrophe pay” program to those who need to be quarantined, despite the company not offering paid time off to its employees. Those actually diagnosed with COVID-19 will receive what Starbucks calls “additional pay replacement” for up to 26 weeks, the report added.
Lawmakers in Washington have pushed for paid time off for hourly employees to be included in any coronavirus response package.