America's largest grocery union blasts Kroger for ending 'hero' pay
'This is now how we treat heroes in America'
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The largest grocery-store union in the U.S. condemned supermarket company Kroger over plans to end "hero" pay amounting to an extra $2 per hour for front-line workers.
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The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) joined employees and customers alike in expressing outrage at the company's decision with the COVID-19 pandemic and many shelter-in-place orders ongoing.
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"We are extremely disappointed by Kroger’s decision to end Hero Pay," the UFCW wrote. "At the beginning of this crisis, Kroger first called these workers 'heroes' and now they have decided that they’ve stopped being heroes.
The union added that the pandemic and social distancing guidelines continue, Kroger employees are required to wear masks, and there is no vaccine for the virus yet.
The supermarket has been supplying workers with personal protective equipment (PPE), enhancing store sanitation, offering testing to employees with symptoms, providing more health care benefits and changing store hours since late March.
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"This decision is even more inexplicable given that sales are up and profits are up. The reality is that Kroger is choosing to ignore this pandemic. This is not how we treat heroes in America," the UFCW said.
Kroger said on Saturday that it will give employees extra "thank you" bonuses after announcing its decision to end hero pay.
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The bonus is $400 for full-time workers and $200 for part-time workers to be paid out in two installments on May 30 and June 18, Kroger announced Friday. Hazard pay was a $2-per-hour supplement.
UFCW Local 75 president Kevin Garvey said the union will pressure the company to provide bonus pay for as long as the pandemic continues.
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“COVID-19 is not going away soon,” he said. "Our members still have to work in the same conditions and deal with the same pressures. They are worth every penny of the $2 premium and the (latest) bonus.”
Kroger has hired more than 100,000 workers since March.
The company disclosed Tuesday that CEO Rodney McMullen received target direct total compensation of $14.3 million in 2019, up 3.6 percent from 2018.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.