- Kroger will be paying another one-time bonus to its frontline grocery, supply chain and other workers as part of an effort to reward its associates for their work during the pandemic, the grocer announced Friday. Dubbed “Thank You Pay,” the extra compensation — $400 for full-time employees and $200 for part-time workers — will be distributed in two installments, on May 30 and June 18. The payouts will total $130 million, Kroger said.
- This weekend, the supermarket chain will eliminate the extra $2 in hourly pay that it has been providing its workers since late March. That program was originally intended to cover hours worked from March 29 to April 18, but was extended through May 16.
- Kroger also said that it will continue providing paid time off to workers who experience symptoms of COVID-19 or are “most directly affected” by the virus. "We want our associates to continue to feel supported in prioritizing their health," Tim Massa, Kroger's senior vice president and chief people officer, said in a statement. "Our associates should only be working if they are healthy and symptom free.”
Kroger’s announcement that it will provide another round of extra compensation to its workers comes as labor officials and politicians have derided its decision not to continue paying its workers the extra $2 per hour in “hero pay” they have received since the end of March.
Local 400 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), which represents Kroger workers in Maryland, said May 12 that it had launched an online petition calling on the grocer not to discontinue the extra hourly pay “until the end of this crisis.”
“Our members have risked their lives and the lives of their families to continue coming to work to serve customers through this crisis,” Mark Federici, president of the labor group, said in a statement. “The danger they face every day is still present, and with no vaccine in sight, will continue to be for quite some time. These heroes deserve to be compensated for the service they continue to provide to the community.”
On Thursday, several members of Congress from Michigan wrote to Kroger executives calling the elimination of the extra pay “a slap in the face to everyone who has enabled your doors to remain open.”
Kroger is not the only grocer to draw ire for choosing to end emergency payments to workers related to the pandemic. The UFCW’s national office sent a letter on Friday to 49 grocery chain CEOs slamming them for eliminating the extra pay they have provided workers during the pandemic.
“To be very clear, if you truly believe that the threat of COVID-19 has passed for your workers, then you and/or your executive teams should be willing to admit this publicly. Until that day comes, you have a responsibility to provide your workers with essential protections and benefits, including so-called hero/appreciation/hazard pay, until this terrible threat has passed,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in the letter, which went to grocers including Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Hy-Vee, Costco and Publix. Notably, Kroger was not among the companies the union targeted with its letter.
Kroger has cultivated a cooperative relationship with the UFCW’s national leadership as the pandemic has unfolded. In April, the grocer and the union issued a joint statement asking federal and state authorities to classify grocery workers as essential personnel to make it easier for them to obtain personal protective equipment like face masks and gloves.
Kroger has taken the lead on providing COVID-19 testing for its workers. The company announced May 4 that it would offer the tests at no charge to its associates "based on symptoms and medical need." Kroger also hosts 50 drive-thru testing sites across 12 states.
The bonus program announced Friday is in addition to other one-time bonuses Kroger paid in April and earlier in May. Kroger noted Thursday, before announcing its latest bonus program, that it has invested in its associates, customers and communities to the tune of $700 million since the pandemic began in March and hired 100,000 workers during that time.
Amazon, Target and H-E-B are set to end their hourly employee bonuses by the end of this month. On Tuesday, Walmart said it would distribute $390 million in bonuses to its workers in June as part of a third round of pandemic-related payments. Full-time workers will get $300, while part-time hourly and temporary associates will receive $150.