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'Minority Report Union-Busting' Tactics at Whole Foods Decried Following Reporting on Company's Labor Activism Heat Map

The company, which is owned by Amazon, uses factors like race, turnover, and "loyalty" to determine each store's score. 

Betty Bailey of SEIU Local 1 protests with Whole Foods Market employees and other union activists outside a Whole Foods Market store on July 31, 2013 in Chicago.

Betty Bailey of SEIU Local 1 protests with Whole Foods Market employees and other union activists outside a Whole Foods Market store on July 31, 2013 in Chicago. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Progressives on Monday criticized Whole Foods, the grocery chain owned by Amazon, for using a heat map to track potential union activity at its stores across the U.S.—relying on data around racial diversity, "loyalty," and  labor complaints as indicators that affect how the corporation scores the sites.

"This is infuriating but it's also a testament to the urgency and importance of essential workers unionizing," tweeted The Atlantic's Adam Serwer.

Business Insider's Hayley Peterson on Monday broke the "legitimately explosive news" of the heat map and scoring system being used at the company's 510 stores nationwide. 

According to Peterson's reporting:

The stores' individual risk scores are calculated from more than two dozen metrics, including employee "loyalty," turnover, and racial diversity; "tipline" calls to human resources; proximity to a union office; and violations recorded by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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The map also tracks local economic and demographic factors such as the unemployment rate in a store's location and the percentage of families in the area living below the poverty line.

Whole Foods and Amazon have resisted unionization efforts even as the coronavirus pandemic has amped up worker frustrations and led to strikes and actions around the country. Workers are increasingly fed up with inadequate safety standards and access to protective equipment at the essential grocery stores and retail distribution centers.

As Common Dreams reported on April 15, Whole Foods and Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, has already made $24 billion in 2020 as the pandemic rages around the country and the world.

Progressives reacted to the news of the heat map with outrage, with Vice reporter Ashwin Rodrigues referring to the tactic as "minority report union busting."

Journalist Ben Norton on Twitter echoed the apocalyptic fiction theme.

"We are living in a real-life dystopia," said Norton, adding, "This is some evil science fiction shit."

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