Some Cities Are Mandating Hazard Pay for Grocery Employees
The Biden administration has proposed increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour. While that is going on, many cities are proposing increased pay for one category of low-wage worker: grocery employees.
Early in the pandemic, many grocery chains offered hazard pay to their employees. Right now, many are offering to pay employees to receive the vaccine or are doing vaccination on site. Grocery workers remain on the front lines, ensuring that vital food supply chains deliver. We still don’t know if they have a higher infection rate than the public at large, although anecdotal evidence suggests that grocery employees have been hit hard by COVID-19. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union reports that 134 grocery employees have died of the virus.
The cities of Seattle and Long Beach and Montebello, California, have passed laws requiring grocery chains to pay in-store employees an additional $4 per hour. The Montebello law calls for pharmacy employees to receive the higher rate as well.
In response, CNN reports that Trader Joe’s is temporarily increasing its pay for all employees nationwide by $4, but that it will not offer mid-year raises. Meanwhile, Kroger (NYSE: KR) closed two of its grocery stores in Long Beach.
Other cities are debating mandatory wage increases, and other chains are trying to head it off. Last week, Target (NYSE: TGT) announced that it was giving its employees $500 bonuses. Target and Walmart (NYSE: WMT) are not covered by the Seattle, Long Beach and Montebello laws, despite being major food retailers.
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