- Kroger will provide a $100 one-time payment to all associates who get vaccinated against COVID-19 provided that they get all doses recommended by the manufacturer of the vaccine they receive and present proof, the supermarket chain announced Friday.
- The grocer will also distribute a $100 store credit and 1,000 fuel points to each of its associates on Thursday regardless of whether they get vaccinated.
- Kroger is the latest food retailer to offer cash payments to workers who opt to receive the coronavirus immunizations.
Kroger’s decision to incentivize — but not require — its workforce to get vaccinated against COVID-19 echoes similar announcements from other grocers over the past few weeks. Competitors including Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Dollar General and Lidl have also said they will provide extra pay to workers if they voluntarily decide to receive COVID-19 shots.
“As we move into a new phase of the pandemic, we’re increasing our investment to not only recognize our associates' contributions, but also encourage them to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as it becomes available to them to optimize their well-being as well as the community’s,” Kroger Chief People Officer Tim Massa said in a statement.
Workers who are unable to get vaccinated because of health or religious reasons will be able to receive the payment if they complete a healthy and safety course, according to Kroger, which has added more than 100,000 associates to its payroll since last March and now counts nearly 500,000 workers across its banners. In its announcement, Kroger also emphasized that it is pressing for its employees to receive priority access to vaccines, which are being allocated according to distribution plans developed and managed by the states.
Kroger, along with other grocers that operate pharmacies, is playing a central role in distributing COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. The retailer said it had administered more than 200,000 coronavirus shots to healthcare workers, nursing facility employees and elderly people as of Feb. 5, but did not say if it intends to assist its own employees in making arrangements to get vaccinated.
Kroger’s move to offer payments to associates to encourage them to receive COVID-19 shots comes as the grocer deals with criticism over its resistance to providing hazard pay for its workforce despite pressure from local governments and union officials.
On Feb. 1, the retailer announced it would close a pair of locations in Long Beach, California, after lawmakers in that city voted to require grocery stores within its jurisdiction to provide $4 per hour in additional pay to workers to compensate them for working during the pandemic. Other cities, including Seattle and Oakland, California, have also recently passed hazard pay ordinances.
Hours after Kroger’s announcement that it would provide a one-time payment to workers who get vaccinated, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union issued a statement calling the grocer’s move “a slap in the face for its frontline employees who have been treated as expendable throughout the pandemic.”
In a statement, UFCW International President Marc Perrone said Kroger should share the strong profits it has generated during the pandemic with its workforce. “This one-time payment from Kroger is appreciated, but given the way the company has treated its workers during the pandemic, it does not recognize the contribution of these essential workers to our nation or the risks they face daily,” Perrone said.
Kroger has distributed several rounds of bonuses and store credits to its workers since the pandemic began, according to its website. But the company has not given in to demands that it restore the premium pay program it implemented last March and stopped May 16.