Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: COVID-19 benefits for grocery workers
Overview: Several grocery store chains are providing workers with pay raises and bonuses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stores have also ramped up their health and safety protocols in order to protect employees and customers.
Location: United States
Population: 330.5 million
Food policy category: Food service
Program goals: To show appreciation for front-line grocery store workers who are risking their health and safety to keep the public fed during a worldwide crisis.
How it works:
- Protection: Kroger, for example, is also adding the following protections:
- Emergency paid leave so employees experiencing COVID-19 symptoms are able to fully and safely recover;
- New cleaning and sanitizing protocols allowing employees to wash their hands and registers every 30 minutes;
- Decreased store hours to allow workers ample time to rest at home;
- Plexiglass partitions at registers to reduce likelihood of transmitting respiratory droplets that may result in illness;
- Floor decals to promote social distancing among customers; and
- Financial assistance for employees unable to work due to lack of childcare or because they are at high-risk for COVID-19.
Progress to date: Whole Foods and Amazon announced temporary $2 per hour pay increases on March 17, 2020, while Trader Joe’s released a memo on the same date describing their plans to pay employees bonuses. Target and Albertsons Cos. stores made announcements on March 20 increasing hourly employees’ wages by $2 per hour. Sheetz, Kroger, Walmart, Costco, Ralphs, and others followed suit soon after.
Why it is important: During the COVID-19 pandemic, most Americans are being urged to stay home as much as possible and enter public spaces only for essential activities, including grocery shopping. Grocery workers are among the employees considered “essential” during this crisis, and they do not have the luxury of being able to complete their work from home. They are going to work, risking their own health and safety as well as that of their families by coming in contact with hundreds of people every day. They are on their feet for long hours, monitoring the number of customers coming in and out of the store to ensure safe social distancing practices, working the cash registers to ensure that customers are able to leave the store quickly, and restocking shelves to maintain customer satisfaction and peace of mind.
Pay raises, bonuses, and added protections at work are necessary to show these essential workers the appreciation they deserve and to incentivize them to keep working, so that the general public can continue to obtain the groceries they need.
Program/Policy initiated: Stores began providing increases in hourly wages, bonuses, and/or added protections in March 2020. The benefits will remain in place for varying lengths of time, depending on the retailer and demands of the pandemic.
Point of contact: N/A
Similar practices: Other food companies, including Tyson, Cargill, Hormel Foods, Inc., and Maple Leaf Foods, Inc., are also providing temporary wage increases or bonuses to their employers.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Independent Grocery (National Grocers Association)
- Grocery Store Workers Are On the Frontlines of the COVID-19 Pandemic (WGME News)
- Grocery Workers Keep America Fed, While Fearing For Their Own Safety (NPR)
- Why Local Grocery Workers Say They Should Be Classified as ‘First Responders’ (WTOP News)
- ‘The $2 is Insulting’: Retail Workers Fight for More Pay Amid Coronavirus Crisis (LA Times)
- 9 Retailers That Have Hiked Wages During the Coronavirus Pandemic (Business Insider)
- Albertsons Plans Plexiglass Barriers, ‘Appreciation Pay’ in COVID-19 Response (Supermarket News)
- As Coronavirus Fuels Meat Demand, Processors Raise Pay for North American Farmers, Workers (NY Times)
- Costco Gives Employees Extra $2-an-Hour During Coronavirus Chaos (FOX35 Orlando)
- Costco is Offering an Additional $2 an Hour to Its Hourly Employees Across the US as the Coronavirus Outbreak Causes Massive Shopping Surges (Business Insider)
- Here’s Why People are Panic Buying and Stockpiling Toilet Paper to Cope with Coronavirus Fears (CNBC)
- Kroger to Give Employees Pay Raise, Mental Health Services and More Benefits (Courier Journal)
- Kroger Grocery Workers in Texas Receive Pay Raises, New Benefits During Coronavirus Outbreak (NBC DFW News)
- Newsroom (Albertsons Companies)
- On the Coronavirus Front Lines: Grocery Workers ‘Vulnerable’ as Panicked Shoppers Crowd Stores (NBC News)
- Ralphs and Food for Less Workers Get $2 an Hour Raise, Puts Them on Par With Peers (Voice of OC)
- Sheetz Increasing Frontline Employees’ Pay $3 an Hour as the Coronavirus Spreads (WSLS 10 News)
- Target Pays Bonuses, Hikes Pay by $2 an Hour Amid Coronavirus-Induced Surge in Shopping (CNBC)
- Trader Joe’s is Paying Bonuses to Store Employees Amid an ‘Unprecedented’ Sales Increase, as Some Workers Demand ‘Hazard Pay’ (Business Insider)
- ‘Us Grocery Store Workers Need to be Fairly Compensated.’ Protests at Amazon, Whole Foods Begin. (USA Today)
- Walmart is Latest Retailer to Temporarily Raise Pay in Response to the Coronavirus (USA Today)
- What Is and Isn’t Allowed During a ‘Shelter-in-Place’ Order (CNN)
- What You Can Do (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Whole Foods, Amazon Enact Temporary Wage Hike in Coronavirus Response (Supermarket News)