Employer-sponsored healthcare can be tough to come by for many workers in this part-time, subcontracted, gig-economy era. But until now, Whole Foods’ part-time employees had it pretty good, at least in terms of medical benefits: Workers who put in at least 20 hours a week were eligible to enroll in the company’s health insurance plans. But not anymore.
Business Insider reported that Whole Foods will no longer offer the option to those employees, who comprise less than 2% of the company’s total workforce. That’s still roughly 1,900 workers who would lose coverage. The company says it is “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.”
But the irony of a company that’s built its reputation on perceived good and “team member growth and happiness”—and is owned by Jeff Bezos, the richest man on earth—is not lost on the media. The Verge ended its story on this news with a spur-kick of a closer: “During the course of writing this article, which took approximately 30 minutes, Bezos earned an estimated $4.5 million.” The Seattle Times notes prior to being bought by Amazon, Whole Foods founder and CEO John Mackey said his company’s workers were “beyond unions” because of the company’s progressive and generous workplace environment.
Hopefully that generosity means the company is offering all the formerly part-time employees the option to move to full-time employment and gain access to benefits again. Of course, that won’t work for employees who may have another part-time job in addition to Whole Foods, but at least it would at least provide them some decision-making power. Are critics being harsher on Whole Foods than they would be on another grocery chain with a similar policy? Perhaps. But a company that touts its ethical and social practices—and is owned by the richest man alive—opens itself up to this kind of scrutiny.