Even as the coronavirus crisis rages on, and state and local governments haven’t fully rescinded stay-at-home orders, some grocery stores and coffee shop chains are phasing out hazard pay, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Major retailers like Target, Walmart, CVS, Whole Foods, Costco, Sprouts, and Kroger extended bonuses or offered temporary raises to workers during the pandemic’s outset, in order to continue operating. Starbucks decidedly closed thousands of stores and gave paid leave to all employees, while those who worked the drive-thrus were awarded a $3 hourly raise.
But the “hero bonuses” and “appreciation pay” are now petering out, as workers’ levels of exposure to the virus remains largely unaffected. Starbucks’ raises will cease at the end of May, as will Target’s $2 hourly raise. Ralphs, QFC, and Fred Meyer—grocery chains owned by Kroger—will eliminate the extra $2-per-hour that workers receive on Sundays.
Unions like UFCW Local 770, which serves over 20,000 grocery workers in Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties aren’t a big fan of the deviation.
“The pandemic exposed how little corporations pay many workers, workers on whom the public deeply depends,” John Grant, president of UFCW Local 770, said in a statement. “With all eyes on essential workers during the pandemic, grocery corporations were quick to capitalize on the good PR of raising wages, but they cannot justify taking them away, especially since they have continued to do business while so many other businesses are closed and their profits are record high.”
While the U.S.’s economic shutdown has negatively impacted a number of industries, grocery and pharmacy companies have been less affected due to the continued need for essential items and food.
A Kroger spokeswoman told the Times that the company is “committed to the continued support of our associates’ safety and mental well-being,” and is in discussions with the UFCW about compensation and benefits. She also mentioned that the average hourly wage is $15.
A Whole Foods spokesperson said the company hasn’t shared whether it will continue its $2 hourly raise, while Costco and Sprout didn’t comment about their respective financial incentives. CVS and Walmart confirmed that they would pay a second round of bonuses in June for hours worked in May.
When Peet’s Coffee shuttered some stores, it furloughed employees and offered a $3 raise to those who continued working. For Starbucks’ part, most of its stores reopened on May 4 with revised operations and safety measures. The company’s $3 raise will soon subside, though it is lengthening paid leave for workers who are dealing with childcare issues.