CORONAVIRUS

Grocery Workers To Lose Their Pandemic Pay Increases: Union

The United Food and Commercial Workers says Kroger will end workers' $2 "hero pay" May 17.

Kroger has informed employees it plans to eliminate the $2-per-hour bonus for working amid the pandemic by the middle of May, according to a union representing store employees.

The United Food and Commercial Workers said its members learned the pay premium would come to an end on May 17. The union said Kroger employees are “risking their lives to ensure America is fed no matter what” and deserve to keep the bonus.

“Taking away this hero pay from these essential workers disregards their continued heroism as they serve their communities in crisis,” Kim Cordova, the president of UFCW Local 7, said in a statement.

A Kroger spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment on the apparent decision.

Essential workers of all kinds have been itching for hazard pay during the coronavirus crisis, saying the unusually high risks they are taking on call for a significant wage boost. Many employers, particularly in health care, have not provided any increases at all. 

Some grocers and retailers have responded with temporary pay boosts, though they are typically quite modest. Now those premiums may start disappearing altogether, even though the dangers of coronavirus will stick around for a long time. The death count in the U.S. due to COVID-19 approached 80,000 on Friday.

Amazon instituted a $2-per-hour pandemic pay boost for its employees ― an increase one worker compared to “chicken feed” in an interview with HuffPost. The company recently said it will last through May 16. The same bonus applies at Amazon-owned Whole Foods.

The UFCW says Kroger informed employees the "hero pay" will end on May 17.
The UFCW says Kroger informed employees the "hero pay" will end on May 17.

Marc Perrone, the UFCW’s president, told HuffPost last month that when the pandemic began the union set about negotiating increases for its members, noting they had no ”pandemic clause″ in their contracts. The union represents some 900,000 grocery workers around the country.

Perrone argued that if the workers are heroes then their pay should always be higher.

“Kroger called it ′hero′ pay,” he said. “I said to them, ‘Yeah, but if you’re a hero, you’re a hero, right? It doesn’t really go away, does it? All of the sudden you don’t wake up one day and you’re not a hero anymore.’”

Democrats in Congress have floated a proposal for federally funded hazard pay. The plan would provide essential workers with an extra $13 per hour for working from the start of the pandemic through the year, capped at $25,000 for most workers. Republican Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has put together his own plan of an additional $12 per hour for a three-month stretch. Few of Romney’s GOP colleagues, however, seem to be on board with a hazard pay plan.

President Trump said more than a month ago that he was ”looking at″ providing additional pay to frontline health care workers, but the White House doesn’t appear to have said much on the issue since then.

HuffPost readers: Are you losing a temporary pay increase you received for the pandemic? Tell us about it


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