The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union, has called on the country’s largest supermarket chains to immediately reinstate hazard pay “in light of an explosion of COVID-19 cases nationwide.”
“Across the country, America’s food retailers have ended hazard pay even as COVID-19 health risks have increased for grocery workers on the frontlines of the pandemic,” the UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement released on Friday.
“Even worse, multi-billion-dollar companies like Kroger are raking in record sales just weeks after cutting hazard pay for the very grocery workers who made that success possible,” the statement continued.
Kroger announced 57-percent profit increase and 19-percent sales growth in the first quarter since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with total sales reaching 41 billion U.S. dollars.
The Cincinnati-based company announced on May 15 to give employees extra “Thank you” bonuses to replace the hazard pay, which was a two-U.S.-dollar-per-hour supplement.
The one-time “Thank you” pay, which will be 400 U.S. dollars for qualified full-time employees and 200 U.S. dollars for qualified part-time employees, will be paid out in two installments on May 30 and June 18, the company said in a statement released on May 15.
As of Saturday afternoon, over 2.2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases have been reported in the U.S., with death toll surpassing 119,000, according to a data tracking tool developed by Johns Hopkins University.
Some 19 states, mostly in the South, West and Midwest, saw rising cases on Friday, and the nation reported more than 30,000 new infections, the highest daily total in over a month, The New York Times reported.
“As long as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, every grocery worker in America must receive the hazard pay they have earned for the vital work they are doing to serve our communities as the danger continues,” Perrone said.
The UFCW represents 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries, according to its website.
In May, the UFCW sent a letter to top grocery CEOs across the country condemning them for suggesting that the health risks of this pandemic have diminished, and failing to provide the pay and protections necessary given the risks that America’s grocery workers face.