Union calls on Kroger to extend Hero Pay

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MORGANTOWN, WV (WBOY) – The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 union is calling on Kroger to extend its “hero pay” of $2 an hour increase indefinitely, according to a statement from the union.

UFCW represents all Kroger store associates and in its statement, the union “condemned the company,” due to its plans to cancel its pay increase after May 16.

The union has since launched an online petition that officials stated will target Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen. According to the statement, the petition is gathering signatures from thousands of Kroger union members in Virginia and West Virginia, as well as stores on the Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee borders. 

Here is an excerpt from that petition:

Kroger has announced it no longer plans to continue its so-called “hero pay” $2/hour increase for all store associates after May 16, despite the dangers employees continue to face in the workplace from this unprecedented pandemic. With no vaccine in sight, Kroger workers will continue to risk their health, and the health of their families and loved ones, by coming to work.

Unlike most other businesses, Kroger is making more than ever right now. The grocery business is one of the few industries that is not shut down but is actually thriving during the COVID-19 outbreak. Kroger workers achieved a remarkable 30% increase in identical store sales in March, a trend we expect will continue in April and May. Now is not the time to cut wages for heroes on the frontlines. These heroes deserve to share in the financial success they have created for Kroger.

We, the undersigned, call on Kroger to immediately extend the $2.00/hour wage increase indefinitely until the end of this crisis for all Kroger associates continuing to work.

PETITION TO EXTEND “HERO PAY”

According to the statement, UFCW has called on employers, as well as policymakers at the local, state and federal level to institute a suite of new policies to protect workers and customers.

Those new policies include:

  • Declaring grocery store workers “first responders” or emergency personnel so they have access to the benefits and protections others in those categories receive, especially access to testing, treatment, and personal protective equipment (Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, and Vermont have already done this.)
  • Limiting the number of customers in a store to 10 people per 10,000 square feet and a maximum of 50 people in a store at a given time to be enforced by additional security staff (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, and Rhode Island have recently placed limits on customers in stores, as has Kanawha County.)
  • Mandating an additional 14 paid sick days to be used without the need to a positive COVID-19 test or quarantine order.
  • Mandating paid leave of 12 weeks for those in high risk categories such as those over 60, immune-compromised individuals, and those who need to care for sick loved ones.
  • Access to free childcare (Maryland has already done this.)
  • Increased security at all stores, both through store security and increased police patrols.
  • Banning any discipline relating to time and attendance.
  • Mandatory wiping down of grocery carts, self-scan screens, and credit card touch screens after each use.
  • Public address announcements at regular intervals reminding people to maintain a 6-foot distance from employees and other customers.
  • Requiring a six-foot distance be kept from cashiers and other customers in line at check stands.
  • Requiring that only every other check stand and self scan be open.
  • Requiring shorter store hours or 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. to allow for additional cleaning, stocking, and rest time.
  • Mandating that employees be allowed to wear masks and gloves even if they are not sick.
  • Requiring employers to provide adequate amounts of masks, gloves, cleaning supplies, and hand sanitizer.
  • Mandating hazard pay with a minimum of at least $2 an hour and double time for any overtime hours worked.
  • Requiring stores to supply masks to all employees and customers to wear while in the store.

Kroger released a follow up statement to the union’s concerns:

Throughout the pandemic, Kroger’s top priority is to provide and maintain a safe environment for our associates and customers with open stores, comprehensive digital solutions and an efficiently operating supply chain, so that our communities always have access to fresh, affordable food and essentials.

The Kroger Family of Companies has invested over $700 million dollars to reward our associates and safeguard associates, customers and our communities during the pandemic. We have also provided new career opportunities to more than 80,000 workers nationwide, including those from the hardest-hit sectors like restaurants, hotels and food service distributors, to support our retail, e-commerce, manufacturing and logistics operations.

Our temporary Hero Bonus is scheduled to end in mid-May. In the coming months, we know that our associates’ needs will continue to evolve and change as our country recovers. 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.

We are committed to the continued support of our associates’ safety and mental well-being, and we’ll continue our ongoing discussions on these critical aspects with the UFCW.

– ALLISON MCGEE, CORPORATE AFFAIRS MANAGER FOR KROGER MID-ATLANTIC.

Kroger released the following ways that the company stated that it will “continue to invest in, support and protect associates:”

  • Offering testing to associates based on symptoms and medical need.
  • Providing Emergency Leave to associates most directly affected by the virus or experiencing related symptoms and providing paid time off.
  • Supplying masks for all associates and encouraging them to stay home if they are sick and encouraging customers to wear masks in our stores, or alternatively, use e-commerce services.
  • Providing benefits packages, which includes healthcare coverage and retirement benefits.
  • Offering $5 million through our Helping Hands fund to provide financial support to certain associates experiencing hardships due to COVID-19, including childcare costs.
  • Making available mental health resources.
  • Continued implementation of customer capacity limits and special shopping hour for senior shoppers and higher-risk customers.
  • Continued plexiglass partitions and physical distancing floor decals.
  • Expanding Contact-free payment solutions like Scan, Bag, Go and Kroger Pay.

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