During the recent coronavirus pandemic, grocery stores were vital in keeping Americans fed and supplied. Unfortunately, their workers’ health was also at risk. According to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), as many as 17,400 grocery workers have contracted the disease.
The UFCW is a union that represents over 900,000 grocery store workers in the United States. In a survey of more than 5,000 workers, it found that 84% of respondents said they had experienced covid, and 72% said they had been exposed to the virus. Although this study is not comprehensive, it does show the impact of the epidemic. Grocery workers are the front line of this pandemic and are at an especially high risk.
In the UFCW survey, workers were asked whether they reported health and safety issues to management. The stores that were more likely to have high COVID-19 infection rates were those where workers had reported safety concerns. The effect size ranged between -.04, while the FPR ranged from 62% to 65%. The survey also noted that stores that had a positive response from management were significantly less likely to have higher rates of worker COVID-19 infection.
Moreover, more than a third of Kroger workers said that they were concerned about being evicted from their jobs. The survey also showed that the concern for eviction rose as the age of the worker rose. This age group corresponded to the age group during which workers were most likely to have children.
The UFCW survey of 5000 workers revealed a frightening fact. The majority of grocery workers say that they frequently see customers flouting safety guidelines and coming in without protective clothing. This is a clear and present danger to the food supply and all grocery workers. A new campaign called ‘Shop Smart’ is being launched to raise awareness about this public health issue.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union has released a statement about the issue. It claims that the number of grocery workers exposed to the disease has increased by 24% since March 1, and that the number of workers who have died from the illness has increased by 30 percent. Despite these alarming statistics, the union is calling for the government to classify these workers as first responders and offer them priority access to testing.
OSHA delay in hiring investigators
A delay in hiring investigators by OSHA in grocery store accidents isn’t the only reason that workers are being injured in the workplace. Congress has not funded the job safety agency properly. The agency has a $4.37 billion budget and Congress has failed to increase its funding, which has led to years of underfunding. The agency’s mission is broad and it needs substantial resources to fulfill it.
On September 9, 2020, the Labor Commissioner’s Office opened an investigation on the allegations brought by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). Investigators determined that the employer did not inform workers about their rights under COVID-19. Some workers were told to report to work even though they were sick. While waiting for test results, others were denied time off. Some were never paid for COVID-19 absences.
OSHA’s investigation process is complicated and complex. In the past, it only responded to informal complaints by phone or fax. But with the recent pandemic, OSHA has changed its policy. Now, it accepts formal complaints as well. But it takes time to hire investigators in such cases.
While the federal government’s ability to provide workers with safety protections has improved over the years, its ability to enforce regulations has been compromised. A report by the AFL-CIO in 1992 stated that federal OSHA could inspect workplaces once every 84 years. Now, at current staffing levels, that number is two-and-a-half years. The report also highlights initiatives by OSHA to cooperate with employers and reduce workplace fatalities.
Congress should pass legislation to require OSHA to issue a permanent workplace violence standard. OSHA should also issue new protections for workers reporting workplace violence. The agency must also develop a proactive enforcement strategy across industries. It should investigate complaints, conduct on-site inspections, and issue penalties that reflect the problem and deter other employers. In addition, OSHA needs more resources to fulfill its many responsibilities.
Trader Joe’s raises hazard pay
After Seattle City Council passed a resolution mandating hazard pay for grocery store frontline workers, Trader Joe’s announced on Monday that it will raise the pay of all frontline workers nationwide to $4 an hour. The company’s actions are in response to a PR crisis and a threat of rank-and-file unionization. In a flyer, the company’s executives noted that a higher pay is necessary for employees who work in a hazardous environment.
The hazard pay ordinance has been met with mixed reviews from the business community. In Seattle, a law passed last month mandates that all grocery stores with 500 or more employees pay their workers at least $4 an hour in hazard pay. Trader Joe’s has complied with the law but not at Lakeshore Avenue.
In February 2021, the Seattle City Council approved a hazard pay mandate requiring stores to give their workers an increase of $4 an hour. The measure was meant to appease workers who were frustrated with their low wages. The City Council’s Democratic members, including Socialist Alternative’s Kshama Sawant, were supportive of the legislation. The City Council, which is made up mostly of Democrats, tried to roll back the hazard pay requirement, but was overruled by an 8-to-0 vote. Trader Joe’s will continue to support the law as a way to help workers.
Following this law, the grocery industry has been working to improve the safety conditions for workers. In response, some grocery chains have already made strides by offering stipends to workers. Other grocers have already stepped up their efforts to improve conditions for their workers by offering priority access to COVID-19 vaccinations and personal protective equipment.
Whole Foods loses $2 an hour in hazard pay
The United Food and Commercial Workers International union is calling for grocery retailers to reinstate hazard pay for workers. The campaign includes worker actions in 26 cities, grassroots initiatives, and targeted paid media. The goal is to bring attention to this important issue. Whole Foods employees are exposed to a variety of health risks including coronavirus, which is a serious health threat to both employees and the general public.
The move by Whole Foods is not the first retailer to end hazard pay. Rite Aid and Giant supermarkets have also eliminated the policy, and Kroger is scheduled to end the hero bonus as soon as May. Trader Joe’s employees will continue receiving the $2 an hour until Dec. 31, but the company is still deciding whether to reinstate the policy.
Workers at Whole Foods are also demanding double time for hazard pay over the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. They also want better sanitation equipment, social distancing policies, and paid sick leave. Additionally, they want the company to shut down any locations with the virus, which is known as Covid-19. A petition to this effect has gathered more than 4,600 signatures.
The emergency legislation would go into effect as soon as the Mayor signs it. The proposed legislation would allow workers to sue Whole Foods as soon as they were fired for not meeting their hazard pay obligations. The hazard pay increases would likely be phased in over time, but in the meantime, the policy could help meet immediate needs. Ultimately, this would lead to more permanent wage increases for workers in this field.
The gap between the wages of low-wage frontline workers and the wealth of employers has never been wider. Even in the early days of hazard pay, employees were paid about $2 to $5 an hour. Today, the average grocery wage is between sixteen and twenty dollars an hour, and a typical shift can last four to six hours. A $4 per hour increase seems reasonable for a worker who adds an additional hour or 1.5 to each shift.
Target provides specialized training for grocery workers
Target has a new program in place to train its food team, including grocery workers. These team members will receive specialized training in everything from handling backroom inventory to interacting with customers. These teams will be made up of anywhere from 10 to 60 employees. The training is part of the company’s ongoing effort to become the destination for grocery shopping in the U.S.
Target is also creating a new position, known as a grocery regional leader. These professionals oversee food-related decisions for 60 stores and report to the store operations team in Minneapolis. To date, the company has hired 10 grocery experts, and plans to hire as many as two per key market.
The training also allows Target team members to become experts in health trends and become advocates for health causes. Today’s shoppers are looking for a variety of products and ingredients. The company’s specialized workforce can help them meet this need. Target is a leader in health and wellness. As a result, these stores are devoted to providing healthy products and a convenient experience.
Target has consistently outperformed other retailers in the grocery industry, and it has also received many honors. The company has been recognized as the 2021 Retailer of the Year by Supermarket News. Target’s multi-category shopping formula has been highly successful, and the grocery division is an important part of that success. Target also sells apparel, accessories, beauty, household staples, food, and hardlines. However, seventy percent of its customers go to Target stores for consumables.