SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today joined a coalition of 15 attorneys general in sending a letter to Whole Foods and its parent company Amazon urging the companies to step up efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 by offering paid sick leave that is consistent with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By limiting paid sick leave only to those who have been definitively diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have been placed into quarantine, Whole Foods and Amazon are placing their employees, customers, and the public at large at significant risk of exposure. The companies’ current policy could seriously undercut efforts to promote “social distancing” in order to “flatten the curve” of infections so as to avoid overloading our already strained healthcare system.
“The COVID-19 health crisis highlights the critical need for paid sick leave policies that adequately protect workers and public health,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The employees that keep Whole Foods and Amazon running, like many of their peers around the country, are providing essential services that help American families keep food on the table. These workers, and all hardworking Americans, deserve the basic workplace protection of paid sick leave. The COVID-19 global pandemic makes this clearer than ever before. It will take all of us working together to solve this unprecedented challenge.”
As grocery stores like Whole Foods are one of few places in which people are still regularly congregating, it is especially important to take steps to prevent those stores from being sites of potential infection. In addition, with many local stores and businesses closed during this crisis, consumers are relying on online shopping more than ever. Amazon recently announced plans to hire 100,000 new employees to meet this unprecedented demand. Without appropriate sick leave policies in place, Amazon warehouses and other locations pose a significant risk for possible transmission of the virus from worker to worker.
In the letter, Attorney General Becerra and attorneys general across the country encourage Whole Foods and Amazon to take extra care to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In particular, the coalition calls on the companies to provide:
For the latest on coronavirus preparedness, information, and response, please visit the websites of the California Department of Public Health, Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, and Office of Emergency Services. If you are a worker or employer who has been affected by COVID-19, you can find guidance and resources on the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency’s website. Last week, Attorney General Becerra urged the Trump Administration to halt implementation of the “Public Charge” rule, which could undermine public health efforts to combat COVID-19. The Attorney General also called on nine large companies, including Amazon, to intensify their efforts to tackle price gouging on their platforms in relation to COVID-19.
In sending the letter, Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the letter sent to Amazon and Whole Foods is available here.