Labor union says Amazon-Whole Foods merger could lead to job automation

Labor union says Amazon-Whole Foods merger could lead to job automation
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One of the largest labor unions in the U.S. is calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to more closely scrutinize Amazon’s pending merger with the high-end grocer Whole Foods.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) urged the agency to look at the potential implications for jobs that the merger could have. The union argued that Amazon’s acquisition of the company could lead to automation of many retail jobs at the national chain.

“Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is not about improving customer service, products or choice. It is about destroying Whole Foods jobs through Amazon-style automation. We strongly urge the FTC to carefully review this merger,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone argued in his letter.

“We believe a fair and impartial analysis will prove that Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods ... is a competitive threat to our economy that will hurt workers and communities,” Perrone continued.

Amazon did not offer comment on the letter. In June, however, the company said that it would not be automating Whole Foods jobs.

"Amazon has no plans to use the technology it developed for Amazon Go to automate the jobs of cashiers at Whole Foods," Drew Herdener, a spokesman for Amazon, said at the time. "No job reductions are planned as a result of the deal."

Perrone charged that Amazon is a monopoly that, if it acquires Whole Foods, would also hurt consumers by allowing the company to “gain unfair advantage with suppliers.” This, they argued, could lead to higher prices for the public.

A spokesperson clarified to The Hill that the union is not calling for scrapping the regulations, but said that it would like the FTC to examine some of the impacts, which they say could be damaging to workers and consumers both.

Last Thursday, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) similarly called for the House Judiciary Committee to scrutinize the merger, noting that it “raises important questions concerning competition policy.”

Antitrust experts have said they don’t expect the government to block the deal, as it is a vertical merger, which generally doesn’t fall into anti-competitive considerations that the FTC and Department of Justice look for.

This story was updated at 6:16 p.m.