Grocery store workers have always been major factors, but the pandemic has turned these jobs into hazardous jobs. Many of us were able to quarantine at home while cases of COVID-19 soared and intensive care units were out of our room. But grocery store employees must wake up every day and muster the courage to go to work – and face an increased risk of catching the COVID-19 virus.
They are our nationals and they are our heroes. Hardworking people who are putting their health and lives at risk – and the lives of their families – to feed them during the global pandemic.
Furthermore, this is why Long Beach issued a decree in January requiring major grocery and retail stores to offer their workers a temporary “hero wage”. The decree went into effect in late January, which means that these workers, most of whom are low-income women, will receive an additional $ 4 an hour through late May. This will help provide a safety net as they continue to face greater risks at work while the pandemic continues. The need for a champion’s pay is undeniable, and the data proves it: A Harvard University study found that one in five grocery workers test positive for COVID-19 – and workers who interact with customers are five times more likely to be tested.
Also, this level of exposure often leads to hospitalization and even death. Workers who need to be quarantined quickly exhaust their paid sick leave, forcing them to pay for this work-related necessity out of their own pockets. These are exorbitant costs that many grocery workers, who often live from paycheck to paycheck, cannot afford to pay on hourly wages that do not take into account the additional cost of these new health risks. An additional $ 4 an hour for the average worker, who works about 30 hours a week, amounts to about $ 2,000 in additional income over the 17-week period covered by the law. It’s a meager amount for companies that run supermarkets and have seen their profits double in the past year due to increased sales during the pandemic.
In this regard, the Long Beach’s hero wage law was the first in the country aimed specifically at front-line staple grocery workers and retail food workers. Since then, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, San Jose, Oakland, and just this week, Berkeley, have joined the movement, along with other cities across the country. Last month, Trader Joe announced that it would double its “Thank You” wage, to $ 4 an hour, for its workers during the pandemic. Obviously, grocery companies can provide you an excellent pay – if they want to. Instead of protecting the frontline employees who keep their stores running, Kroger, the grocery giant behind Ralphs and Food 4 Less, decided to respond. The company is closing two stores in Long Beach, thus creating food deserts in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
Kroger sent a message to the primary workers that despite her motto, we were never actually “all in this together.” To make matters worse, communities as diverse as Long Beach are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. At the start of the pandemic, Kroger voluntarily awarded workers a one-time risk allowance bonus of $ 300 for full-time workers and $ 150 for part-time employees. That’s a small amount in the scheme of things, especially since the epidemic has persisted. Since the introduction of these one-off bonuses, the company has reported $ 2.9 billion in operating profit during the third quarter of 2020, and an additional $ 1.2 billion in profits compared to the previous year. However, the bonus was Kroger’s version of the Hero’s Wage. “The true heroes of this story are our partners, and we want to provide them with additional resources and support to help them continue their remarkable efforts,” said Rodney McMullen, CEO of the company. Instead of endangering workers and communities, corporate grocery sellers like Kroger should use their economic power to demonstrate that profits and worker safety are not mutually exclusive. Now, what are your views on it? Let us know in this regard in the comment section below!