Many grocery, coffee chains moving to end coronavirus ‘hero pay’ for employees


As companies across multiple industries continue to hail their workers amid the coronavirus pandemic, others are taking away the temporary pay raise afforded to them in the early stages of the crisis as much of the world hunkered down at home.

Major chains like Kroger, Whole Foods, Starbucks, Target, CVS and Walmart gave employee bonuses or pay increases — dubbed “hero pay” — to their employees as an incentive to report to work. Many were deemed essential as the crisis escalated over several weeks and the demand basic necessities surged.

Some of the raises increased workers’ hourly pay by $2 to $3. Now, many are surprised to learn that the extra pay is going away soon. Kroger is ending its “Hero Bonus” May 16. The grocery chain’s decision has riled the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents thousands of grocery employees.

“The pandemic exposed how little corporations pay many workers, workers on whom the public deeply depends,” said John Grant, president of UFCW Local 770, in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.

“With all eyes on essential workers during the pandemic, grocery corporations were quick to capitalize on the good PR of raising wages, but they cannot justify taking them away, especially since they have continued to do business while so many other businesses are closed and their profits are record high,” he added.

Kroger previously told Fox News that it is “committed to the continued support of our associates’ safety and mental well-being” and provided other benefits to its employees, such as COVID-19 testing based on symptoms, emergency leave and paid time off if workers test positive for the virus.

Several grocery stores have seen employees contract the virus nationwide. Four Kroger employees in Detroit died in April from the disease. In Los Angeles County, 21 employees at a Ralphs in Hollywood tested positive for COVID-19, according to the newspaper.

The Southtown Starbucks Coffee business, which was closed in March and reopened late last week, has a "WELCOME BACK" to customers on the windows Monday in Bloomington, Minn, where customers can pick up their online orders at curbside. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

The Southtown Starbucks Coffee business, which was closed in March and reopened late last week, has a “WELCOME BACK” to customers on the windows Monday in Bloomington, Minn, where customers can pick up their online orders at curbside. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

To combat the pandemic, many stores have installed glass barriers at cashier stations.

Amazon, which has faced a torrent of backlash from its employees over safety protocols, will end its $2 pay raise May 30. The e-commerce giant spent around $800 million to keep employees safe while at work, a spokesperson previously told Fox News.

CVS and Walmart will dole out a second round of bonuses in June for time worked in May, neither has committed to any beyond that, according to the Times.

Starbucks will phase out its $3 pay raise for workers at the end of the month for employees willing to work. The coffee conglomerate began opening most stores May 4, according to a letter from executive vice president Rossann Williams.

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Brianna Rocha, a barista at a Los Angeles Starbucks, told the newspaper that the raise feels like a “very performative” gesture.

“Every company that has given a little bit more in pay is trying to pitch it like it’s for heroes and they’re grateful for us. But it’s not really reflecting as much anymore,” she said.



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