RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Armed with a megaphone and a handful of posters, a small group of Kroger employees made their stand underneath a hot afternoon sun at the Broad Street Kroger location to fight for what they say is adequate compensation for the work they do.
“Customers are coming in without masks on, we’ve had associates who have come down with the virus,” said Lori Chadwick. “They’re not really protecting us like they should protect us.”
Even though Chadwick, a 19-year Kroger employee and her colleagues don’t work in a hospital setting and lack medical scrubs, if you ask her, she’d tell you grocery store workers are every bit frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19, just like nurses and doctors.
“We’re out here trying to fight for our hazard pay,” said Chadwick. “We feel that we deserve that extra pay for putting ourselves out there and keeping the business running.”
But Chadwick believes the grocery store giant isn’t treating it’s employees the way they deserve to be treated.
The workers are members of the Union Food and Commercial workers group. UFCW’s communications director for the Mid-Atlantic Region says Kroger paid workers a bonus in April and June and started ’hazard-hero pay,’ giving all employees a $2 raise in the early days of the pandemic, but hero-pay ended in May.
However, in that time the pandemic has persisted, and employees like Chadwick believe that the company is not doing enough to assist its workers. It’s a sentiment that is also shared by customers who shop at Kroger.
“The risk is high. There’s probably been a thousand people in there today,” said John Spence. “They should get hazard pay, especially in this pandemic. We need to pay these people for risking their life.”
“They deserve it for all the work they do,” said Erma Adams. “They’re the workers, that’s why they’re on the frontlines.”
Other Krogers across the commonwealth had similarly staged protests, including in Hampton, Virginia.
“Business is better than ever, but we don’t feel like we are being paid for what we do,” said Kroger employee Janet Wainwright.
But Chadwick believes what Kroger employees are truly fighting for goes beyond just a larger paycheck, this is about feeling valued by the company.
“It’s not just for us, it’s for everybody. We just want our voices to be heard, let’s step up, take care of us, and appreciate us,” said Chadwick.
In a statement Allison McGee, corporate affairs manager for the Kroger Mid Atlantic Division said:
Our most urgent priority throughout this pandemic has been to provide a safe environment for our associates and customers while meeting our societal obligation to provide open stores, ecommerce solutions, and an efficiently operating supply chain so that our communities have access to fresh, affordable food and essentials.
We are proud of our dedicated associates who are on the frontlines, serving our customers when they need us most. Since March, we’ve invested over $830 million dollars to reward our associates (i.e., Appreciation Pay, Hero Bonus, and Thank You Pay) and safeguard our associates and customers. We also recently thanked our associates with a $100 store credit and 1,000 fuel points.
We continue to listen to our associates and take steps to ensure their safety and well-being. We also continue to execute dozens of safety measures and provide support to our associates through benefits like paid emergency leave and our $15 million Helping Hands fund, which provides financial support to associates experiencing hardships due to COVID-19.
Kroger, however, did not comment on whether or not they would restore hazard pay to its workers.
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