- The United Food & Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) has joined Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio in a campaign to pressure grocery store chains to restore the hazard pay and other extra compensation they had been paying workers but have stopped in recent weeks.
- Warren and Brown, along with a group of other mostly Democratic senators, have written the leaders of 15 major grocery store operators to demand that the companies bring back the additional pay and step up their efforts to keep stores safe for as long as the pandemic endures. The letter, sent to grocers including Ahold Delhaize, Albertsons, Costco, Publix and Walmart, cites data from the UFCW showing that 93 grocery workers have died from COVID-19 and 12,405 have been infected by or exposed to the virus.
- UFCW International President Marc Perrone called out retailers by name for dropping efforts to recognize employees for their work during the pandemic despite their financial success during the pandemic. “For weeks retail companies like Amazon and Walmart and Kroger have acted as if … the pandemic was over,” Perrone said Friday during a media call that also featured Warren and Brown.
The UFCW has been steadily stepping up its efforts to get food retailers to backtrack on their decisions to end the initiatives to pay workers extra that they instituted when the pandemic began. Now, the union has publicly enlisted the support of two well-known senators to try to force the grocers to act.
“It makes no sense that in March and in April, the last time that we saw cases exploding, companies were willing to pay hazard pay, but now they act as though there’s no need for those workers to receive that pay even though there are obvious risks that they’re facing every day,” Perrone said during the press conference.
Warren specifically called out Stop & Shop for eliminating the temporary 10% wage increase it had been paying workers through July 4, noting that the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation has written the grocer to calls for the return of the hazard pay program.
“Stop & Shop’s parent company has been doing great during this pandemic. Profits are up," she said. "They aren't cutting hazard pay because business is down and it’s the only way to keep the stores open. The company has just decided it doesn’t want to acknowledge and compensate the workers who are essential to their business. That is just plain wrong.”
Warren added that she intends to press the Senate to include “robust premium pay” for all workers deemed essential along with strong enforcement tools if lawmakers pass another stimulus package to combat the financial toll of the pandemic. She also said she wants any such package to include health and safety protections for workers and universal paid sick, family and medical leave, among other benefits.
Perrone pointed to the stock market as a reason why grocers eliminated the extra pay programs. “Some of this is based on the demand on corporate executives to feed Wall Street and the shareholders, and I do think that’s part of the problem, and I think our shareholders need to understand that when they’re asked to take risks, they get more money, and when our workers are asked to take more risks they should get more money, too,” he said.