Amazon Must Take Responsibility for High Food Costs and Abuses in Whole Foods Supply Chain
(PASADENA, Calif.) - Shoppers at Whole Foods Market on E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena were greeted today by grocery workers and community allies who provided information to shoppers about the disruptive impacts that Whole Foods is having on Southern California’s social fabric and food supply chain.
In 2017, in its biggest acquisition to date, Amazon bought Whole Foods for $13 billion and promised to slash prices. But under the direction of billionaire Jeff Bezos, the Wall Street Journal reports that Whole Foods’ price tags are already going back up.
In addition to high costs inside Whole Foods, homeowners and renters near Whole Foods are feeling the burden of skyrocketing property taxes and unaffordable rent.
A food chain disruption looms larger now that Whole Foods’s largest distributor, UNFI, is attacking well-paying union jobs and standards. It is not surprising that this is happening as Amazon gets ready to open an entirely new supermarket format to bolster its aggressive attempt to establish a major retail presence in the Southern California grocery segment.
Additionally, those working in Whole Foods’ supply chain are being squeezed for profits. Oxfam, the internationally renowned organization that fights world poverty and hunger, has denounced Whole Foods for human rights abuses in its food supply chain globally, but the problem extends to the United States, as well. Whole Foods’ biggest supplier, UNFI, consolidated its operations in the Northwest recently in order to cut worker benefits, wages, and jobs and destroy union protections. Now, it’s planning to consolidate in Southern California.
“Right now, 1,200 UNFI grocery distribution workers and their families in Southern California are looking to the future with a great deal of anxiety,” said Lou Villalvazo, President of Teamsters Local 630. “As predicted, the Amazon-Whole Foods merger has led to a big push for restructuring and cost cutting by UNFI, even as the CEO and top managers give themselves big pay increases. That’s unacceptable.”
“Cost of living is a huge issue. It’s out of control, and Amazon-Whole Foods is a part of that problem – receiving unjustifiable tax exemptions, driving costs up for the rest of us, even as it’s undercutting and depressing wages and standards. The Teamsters Union will not accept an attack on good jobs, retirement security and real health insurance that our families depend on. We will stand together and fight back,” said Randy Cammack, President of Teamsters Joint Council 42.
Unionized UNFI employees in Southern California belong to several Teamster locals under Joint Council 42, which has over 250,000 members in 23 locals in Southern California, Southern Nevada, Guam, Saipan and Hawaii. Nearly 4,000 UNFI workers belong to the Teamsters Union across the United States. Whole Foods Market is UNFI’s largest customer, and UNFI is Amazon-Whole Foods’ biggest supplier.