Grocery stores respond to epidemic: Sneezeguards, raises, bonuses, and a hiring spree


By Don McIntosh

Grocery companies that own Fred Meyer/QFC and Safeway/Albertsons will provide up to two weeks of pay for workers who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or required to self-quarantine, without drawing down their accrued sick leave or other paid leave, UFCW Local 555 announced March 20.

Both companies are adopting that policy nationwide at both union and nonunion stores.

Albertsons Companies—which owns Safeway, Albertsons, Haggen and other chains—also announced a temporary $2-an-hour pay increase from March 15 through at least March 28. About 230,000 union and nonunion workers will receive what the company called “appreciation pay,” including e-commerce pickers and drivers, and workers at distribution centers and manufacturing plants. The company also announced it will be installing Plexiglas “sneeze guards” in checkout lanes in all 2,200 stores over the next two weeks—as a protective barrier between customers and checkers. It’s waiving pharmacy delivery fees. And it’s pausing self-service operations like soup and salad bars, making cart wipes and hand sanitizer stations available, and reserving special times for seniors and other vulnerable shoppers.

Kroger Company—which owns Fred Meyer, QFC, and other chains—announced its own one-time “appreciation bonus” of $300 per full-time employee and $150 per part-time employee (less than 30 hours). The bonus, to be paid April 3, applies to every hourly grocery, supply chain, manufacturing and customer service worker, both union and nonunion.

Nonunion Walmart, meanwhile, announced that it plans to hire 150,000 new employees in its stores and distribution centers through the end of May, a nearly 10% increase in its work force, and pay $365 million in cash bonuses to hourly workers in the United States on April 2.

UFCW Local 555 is also calling on the State of Oregon to designate grocery workers as essential personnel akin to first responders like Minnesota, Vermont, Michigan have done. That could make them eligible for state-paid child care, and would give them permission to move freely in the event of roadblocks, curfews and stay-at-home orders. It could also prioritize grocery workers for COVID-19 testing and protective gear.

“In this crisis, we see the grocery line as the front line,” said Local 555 secretary-treasurer Jeff Anderson.

MORE: At its Facebook page and a special coronavirus page, UFCW Local 555 is posting up-to-date recommendations and information on the coronavirus protection.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Read more