Kroger Decides Workers Not So Heroic After All, Ends $2 Hazard Pay For Employees
On March 31st, after immense public pressure, supermarket chain Kroger finally caved and offered their employees "hazard pay" (or "hero pay") of an additional $2 an hour — long after many other businesses had done the same.
This week, they announced that this "hero" pay would end on May 17th, despite no signs of the COVID-19 pandemic ending any time soon — meaning that workers still risk their lives by coming to work every day.
As you can imagine, this has not gone over so well with employees, labor rights advocates or customers, who have been airing their grievances and plans to boycott the company on the Twitter hashtag #KrogerHazardPay.
Technically, I too am a Kroger customer — the company owns Mariano's, which is where I usually shop when I'm home in Chicago — and even though it's the closest grocery store to me, I will happily travel in order to go to a grocery store that values its workers.
Representatives from Kroger explained their stupid and callous decision to NYMag:
In a statement to Intelligencer, Kroger confirmed that the 'hero bonus' will end this month. "In the coming months, we know that our associates' needs will continue to evolve and change as our country recovers," said Kristal Howard, a Kroger spokesperson. "Our commitment is that we will continue to listen and be responsive, empowering us to make decisions that advance the needs of our associates, customers, communities and business. We continuously evaluate employee compensation and benefits packages. Our average hourly wage is $15 and with benefits factored in, like health care, the hourly wage is over $20."
It's likely that Kroger thought about it and decided that with so many people out of work, they didn't really need to pay their employees more to keep them working and risking their lives because they could easily replace any who quit (or who got sick) or who just complained too much with scabs.
As if that isn't gross enough, the company is also now claiming that they "accidentally overpaid" hazard pay to their employees and is sending them all letters asking them to pay it back ... with the hazard pay they will no longer be getting, we guess.
Just out of curiosity, I would love to know how much money it cost to produce and run this ad about how very much they love and appreciate all their associates are doing during this "uncertain time."
Thank You Associates For Keeping America Fed | The Kroger Co. www.youtube.com
Just as a suggestion here — what if instead of spending money running ads about how much they appreciate their employees, they show them, and the world at large how much they appreciate them by letting them keep that $2 an hour bonus for as long as going in to work means they could come home with a deadly virus? Because really, what the hell is the point of spending that much money on virtue signaling this stuff if they're going to be drumming up this kind of negative publicity just a few weeks later?
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse