Kroger employees fighting for return of hazard pay for grocery workers

Metro Atlanta Kroger workers pushing for hazard pay to return

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — The first round of Kroger’s “Thank You” pay is set to be paid in a few days. Full-time employees will receive a $400 bonus while part-time employees will receive a $200 bonus.

The bonus comes after “hero pay” ended last week. Channel 2 Cobb County Bureau Chief Chris Jose heard from workers who aren’t happy about that decision.

“We deserve hazard pay until I no longer have to put on a mask to work in a grocery store,” Kristine Holtham said.

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Holtham is a long-time Kroger employee. So is Debbie Whipple, who works at the store in Fayetteville.

“A lot of people are afraid to come to work. But we know we’re essential. And we’re here for the customers,” Whipple said.

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Due to growing concerns, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union is calling on Kroger and other food retailers who recently ended hazard pay to reconsider.

“It’s simply not right that we’re asking grocery workers to work to protect our food supply and then take a pay cut,” said Marc Perrone, UFCW president.

Last week, Kroger employees received their final payment of hero pay: an extra $2-per-hour bonus, which the company gave through April and mid-May.

“We are total targets. Sitting ducks for the virus. And that risk is why we deserve hourly hazard pay,” Holtham said.

Kroger replaced “hero-pay" with the “thank-you” bonus that will be given out this week.

In a statement on Wednesday, a Kroger spokesperson said in part:

“In the coming months, we know that our associates’ needs will continue to evolve and change as our country recovers. Rest assured that we will continue to make decisions that prioritize our associates’ health and well-being and recognize their work.”

Kroger said since 2017, the average pay rate has been more than $15 a hour. Workers argue they’re putting their health at risk and hazard pay is only fair. Kroger has been asking customers to wear masks and maintain a safe, social distance.