- Stater Bros. Markets has reintroduced a $2-per-hour hazard pay bonus for all hourly employees across its more than 170 stores, as well as workers in distribution, transportation, construction and its corporate offices, the chain announced in a press release on Friday.
- The hourly pay bonus, which started Dec. 6, is in place for three weeks and applies to all hours worked during that time period.
- Stater Bros. first instituted the bonus in mid-March during the first wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. and has since extended it several times during peak case levels in Southern California. The state, like almost the entire nation, is witnessing a period of uncontrolled community spread of the virus.
Stater Bros. is in the minority of retail chains to have reintroduced hazard pay for its essential employees, though as cases have continued to spike, a few major chains have reintroduced extra remuneration for hourly employees. Walmart announced last week that it would pay a $300 bonus to full-time hourly employees and $150 to part-time workers. ShopRite, Stop & Shop and Ingles Markets have also brought back hazard pay recently, and H-E-B gave a $500 bonus to all full and part-time employees in October.
Meanwhile, retailers like Kroger and Amazon have both faced an onslaught of criticism from labor rights groups and their own employees for their refusals to reinstate hazard pay. A recent analysis by The Brookings Intitution noted that since it ended its pay bonus in May, Kroger, despite recording record profits, has paid its employees an average of $10 per hour — some of the lowest wages in the industry. In response to the criticism, Kroger said that it provided "front-line associates" a $100 store credit and 1,000 fuel points in September and November, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Along with its national campaign calling for the reintroduction of hazard pay, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is demanding that retailers provide paid sick leave to employees, free personal protective equipment and COVID-19 tests. The union, which represents more than 1.3 million workers in food and retail, has recorded more than 17,400 COVID-19 infections and exposures and 109 coronavirus-related deaths among its grocery union members.
UFCW International President Marc Perrone argued that retailers have grown too lax with safety standards and enforcement of mask mandates over the summer and fall, which he said not only creates fear among shoppers about in-store shopping, but also places essential workers at risk as the country enters “what could prove to be the riskiest, deadliest phase of this pandemic.”
With the U.S. breaking its own record for most coronavirus-related deaths in a single week and California Governor Gavin Newsom issuing a stay-at-home order to more than 22 million residents across Southern California, grocers are having to rethink whether their current social distancing guidelines and employee support are sufficient. California health officials placed a 35% capacity limit on grocery stores on Sunday and more states may soon follow in their lead.