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Grocery workers union says employees treated like 'zeroes' by Kroger grocery chain

In early 2020 the chain offered 'hero pay' for its associates. Two months later, it was halted.
Grocery workers union says employees treated like 'zeroes' by Kroger grocery chain
Posted at 10:41 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 00:57:10-04

DENVER — Top executives at Kroger, the parent company of King Soopers and other chains, are taking heat for halting grocery workers' hazard pay.

Early 2020, Kroger announced a $2 hourly hazard increase, also known as a "hero bonus." Just two months later, the company halted the raise.

"It's not like the pandemic went away," said Joel Loomis, a former employee of the King Soopers on Table Mesa Drive in Boulder. "Me and a lot of my coworkers got paid $13 an hour. People were upset that they gave them this little pay for a little bit but then took it away so quickly."

Since then, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union has called on the largest retail chains to reinstate hero pay.

Now, the UFCW has chosen to speak out again after reports that Kroger executives cashed in during the pandemic. According to a release from UFCW Local 7, the Kroger CEO received a $22.4 million pay package in 2020, a 6% increase from the year before.

Meanwhile, the average pay for a Kroger employee dropped by 8%, according to a report published by Bloomberg last week.

"We feel like that was a disgrace to the employees risking their health and their families health by continuing to go to work day in and day out," said Zack Lewis, a UFCW Local 7 representative. "Executives were working safe from Zoom, and the grocery workers had to continue to go in, wearing masks eight hours a day, potentially bringing the coronavirus home to their family members. They were told that they didn’t deserve any more once the company stopped paying the hero bonuses."

Kroger released the following statement to Denver7:

Under CEO Rodney McMullen’s leadership, Kroger has increased pay for associates by more than $800 million since 2018 and announced plans to continue to invest significantly in associate wages in 2021. This is in addition to the $2.5 billion Kroger has invested since the start of the pandemic to reward our workforce, better secure pensions and implement safety measures nationwide. We continue to encourage and support our associates to get a COVID-19 vaccination, offering $100 to any associate who receives the manufacturer’s recommended doses of the vaccine.