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Whole Foods Workers Launch 'Fight for 15' Higher Wage Campaign

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LAKEVIEW - More than a dozen employees and 50 activists marched outside the Whole Foods on Halsted Street and Waveland Avenue Wednesday, demanding that the organic food grocer treat its workers better.

The company makes billions, protesters said, so its employees deserve at least $15 an hour in wages.

A point system that penalizes employees for being sick or missing work to care for a sick loved one should be eliminated, they said. And workers have a right to unionize and demand better treatment, they declared.

"We live every day on a razor's edge," said Matthew Camp, who's worked as a cashier for two years.

Many of the 15 or so Whole Foods employees also protested low wages in April as part of a citywide fast food and retail worker campaign called "Fight for 15," spearheaded by the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago.

Management responded by saying in May that it would look into eliminating the point program, Camp said. But since then, workers have heard nothing, he said.

Whole Foods management at the store had no comment.

The Austin, Texas-based company's CEO, John Mackey, has been a vocally anti-union, and the company has squashed earlier attempts to organize at other stores.

However, the company said it has been named by Fortune magazine as one of America's top 100 places to work in each of the last 15 years. Whole Foods called its pay and benefits "competitive," with the average pay for "team members" being $18.63, said spokesman Keith Stewart.

Whole Foods also pays the health insurance premiums for its "team members" and offers discounted stock options, the company says.                   
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