Why grocery store workers deserve hazard pay

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Posted: Aug 7, 2020 9:50 AM
Updated: Aug 7, 2020 9:50 AM

Our country is hurting. People are losing their jobs, parents are struggling to keep a roof over their kids' heads and Americans are getting sick and dying in record numbers. The pain and suffering is often too much to bear. As this crisis continues, we must remember all of the frontline workers who are continuing to put themselves in harm's way to help others make it through these challenging times.

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, millions of America's grocery workers have continued to report to work and serve their communities, despite the ongoing hazards and danger of being exposed to the novel coronavirus.

The brave, dedicated workers who put themselves at risk when they enter their workplaces don't make headlines, but each of us should value their quiet courage and sacrifice every time we visit our neighborhood grocery store. We cannot take their work or safety for granted -- and their employers shouldn't either. But too many grocery chain CEOs treat their workers as expendable. This is unacceptable.

Grocery workers are essential workers -- without them, families across the country would not have access to the food they need during this pandemic. Given the increasing dangers as Covid-19 continues to spread, the time is now to reinstate hazard pay for all of America's grocery workers.

The health threat that these workers face cannot be overstated. According to the Washington Post, by late May, more than 100 grocery workers had already died and at least an additional 5,500 grocery workers had tested positive for Covid-19. That number is likely higher, but a lack of transparency from grocery stores about how many workers have become sick or exposed during this pandemic has made the number difficult to estimate.

As we all know, this pandemic is far from over and the health threats that grocery workers face are just as real now as they were when this crisis began. As one grocery deli manager put it, employees are working in conditions they have "never seen before." Not only are workers interacting with customers, they are wearing masks and social distancing, all while constantly wiping down cash registers, food conveyor belts and shopping carts. These workers are also continuously working to restock items that households desperately need like toilet paper, cleaning supplies and other essentials.

Given the nature of these jobs, grocery workers must be there to help countless customers who are stressed and fearful for their futures. Moreover, they are staying inside with large crowds every day, with ventilation systems that could be spreading the novel coronavirus.

While top grocery chains rake in billions in profits during this pandemic, these frontline workers cannot choose to work from home like the corporate executives of these companies do. The responsibility to properly protect and support store workers lies with these executives, who must make the decision to consistently pay workers a wage that justly compensates them for the clear and present dangers of their jobs during the pandemic.

Yet, many stores do not seem to acknowledge the continued risk these workers face. In fact, many of the largest grocery chains in America -- including Kroger, Albertsons, and Amazon-owned Whole Foods -- have cut the hazard pay wage they provided to frontline workers at the beginning of this pandemic. While some smaller grocery chains have stepped up to extend hazard pay, many of these top grocery store companies in the industry still refuse to do the right thing.

Whole Foods justified cutting hazard pay for its nearly 100,000 grocery workers by saying the company is "planning for the long term" and "continuing to explore new ways to support" its employees. Kroger defended cutting hazard pay for its 460,000 grocery workers by citing paid emergency leave and other expanded benefits, while a spokesperson said that the needs of employees would "continue to evolve and change as our country recovers."

But the brutal truth is that our country is miles from "recovery," and the only thing that has "changed" since these companies cut hazard pay is that even more Americans have been infected by Covid-19, including thousands of grocery workers across the country.

The simple fact is that grocery store workers are putting their lives on the line every day that they walk into the store. They work hard. They work long hours. And they need to support their families just like all of us do.

As the danger of Covid-19 continues, our country's grocery workers -- at both union and non-union supermarkets -- continue to be essential to daily life during this pandemic. Without these frontline workers, our families will not have the food we need to get through this public health crisis.

This pandemic has revealed many failures of leadership across American life, but the failure of CEOs to support the hardworking men and women who are keeping their businesses afloat is particularly jarring. Our corporate leaders -- especially those who lead America's largest grocery companies -- must take concrete and immediate steps to keep their workers safe and fairly compensate them for the serious health hazards they face. For these brave men and women who continue to be on the frontlines of this crisis, our country should demand nothing less.

Given the seriousness of this pandemic, and the essential jobs they do, the time has come to reinstate hazard pay for all of America's grocery workers.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 113081

Reported Deaths: 3231
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7823176
DeSoto676778
Harrison490283
Jackson439383
Rankin385986
Madison375793
Lee349079
Forrest298078
Jones285384
Washington253799
Lafayette244042
Lauderdale2398134
Lamar219038
Bolivar199477
Oktibbeha197654
Neshoba1820111
Lowndes175562
Panola167638
Leflore163287
Sunflower158849
Warren153255
Monroe146572
Pontotoc145219
Pike137256
Lincoln136856
Marshall136226
Copiah135736
Coahoma124036
Scott123829
Grenada120638
Yazoo119933
Simpson119549
Union116025
Leake113940
Holmes113760
Tate113639
Itawamba111325
Pearl River110559
Adams105243
Prentiss102919
Wayne99421
Alcorn96712
George95718
Covington94525
Marion93342
Tippah86521
Newton84927
Chickasaw83225
Winston82621
Tallahatchie82525
Tishomingo79741
Hancock78727
Attala78126
Clarke72750
Clay68421
Jasper67417
Walthall63327
Calhoun61812
Noxubee59617
Smith58516
Claiborne53416
Montgomery53123
Tunica52317
Yalobusha51314
Lawrence50414
Perry48423
Carroll46812
Greene45918
Stone45514
Amite42013
Humphreys41916
Quitman4176
Jefferson Davis40011
Webster36613
Wilkinson33120
Kemper32115
Benton3194
Sharkey28014
Jefferson27110
Franklin2373
Choctaw2036
Issaquena1064
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 154942

Reported Deaths: 2660
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22720374
Mobile14405314
Tuscaloosa10066137
Montgomery9820196
Madison907894
Shelby715361
Lee646165
Baldwin644369
Marshall431048
Calhoun416059
Etowah412249
Morgan400033
Houston365532
DeKalb325428
Elmore312852
St. Clair283842
Limestone273630
Walker269993
Talladega259135
Cullman231024
Lauderdale212540
Jackson205515
Autauga202130
Franklin201731
Colbert193330
Russell19053
Blount187325
Dallas186027
Chilton182632
Escambia171428
Coffee16829
Covington166629
Dale163851
Chambers133043
Pike131313
Tallapoosa129587
Clarke127317
Marion105029
Butler99840
Barbour9969
Marengo98222
Winston90613
Geneva8447
Lawrence81131
Pickens81117
Randolph80514
Bibb80114
Hale74830
Cherokee72314
Clay72212
Lowndes70228
Henry6386
Bullock63717
Monroe63610
Washington62312
Crenshaw59830
Perry5816
Wilcox55912
Fayette55713
Conecuh55613
Cleburne5327
Macon53020
Sumter46821
Lamar4595
Choctaw38712
Greene34016
Coosa1993
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