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Kroger announces new bonuses after ending their 'hero' payments

Credit: Kroger grocery store. Signs laid out to display where customers can stand for social distancing.
Credit: Kroger grocery store. Signs laid out to display where customers can stand for social distancing.(WHSV)
Published: May. 12, 2020 at 1:31 PM EDT
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UPDATE (May 16):

Just days after announcing it would end hazard “hero” pay to front-line workers, Kroger says it will give them extra “thank you” bonuses, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

The move comes after an outcry from the grocery store's union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International, which said workers are still risking their lives by coming to work.

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 continue to pressure the company to provide bonus pay for as long as the pandemic goes on.

“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 $2.00 premium and the (latest) bonus.”

The Cincinnati-based company did not address the dispute with its union in its announcement. The grocer estimates the new bonus will provide $130 million to its workers.

“Our associates have been instrumental in feeding America while also helping to flatten the curve during the initial phases of the pandemic. To recognize and thank our associates for their incredible work during this historic time, we offered special pay in March, April and May,” said CEO Rodney McMullen, in a statement.

Nationwide, UFCW International estimates that at least 65 grocery workers have died at Kroger and other retailers after contracting the coronavirus.

Also on Friday, UFCW International called on 49 major grocery companies, including at Walmart, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Costco and Sam's Club, to extend hazard pay for their workers.

In his letter, Perrone challenged the companies' executives to publicly state they think the dangers of COVID-19 have passed if they chose to stop hazard pay.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and be life-threatening.

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May 12:

A union is calling on Kroger to extend their "Hero Bonus" for employees working through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kroger, the nation's largest grocery chain, has been giving all store associates a $2 an hour raise they've called a "Hero Bonus" since March 29.

It came nearly two weeks after Kroger announced a one-time appreciation bonus that was paid at the start of April. That payment came out to $300 for full-time associates and $150 for part-time associates.

In addition to the bonus, Kroger says they gave each associate $25 for groceries, with stores helping provide food for associates too.

Kroger has said the bonus would apply to hours worked through at least May 16.

On May 12, United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 – a union that represents 35,000 members working in the retail food, health care, retail department store, food processing, service and other industries in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee – issued a statement calling on the grocery chain to extend the bonus.

According to a statement from UFCW, they are "calling on the company to extend the bonus indefinitely until the end of this crisis for all Kroger associates continuing to work."

The union launched an

addressed to Kroger CEO Rodney McMullenand and says that they're gathering signatures from Kroger union members in Virginia and West Virginia, as well as stores on the Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee borders.

“Our members have risked their lives and the lives of their families to continue coming to work to serve customers through this crisis,” said Mark Federici, President of UFCW Local 400. “The danger they face everyday is still present, and with no vaccine in sight, will continue to be for quite some time. These heroes deserve to be compensated for the service they continue to provide to the community.”

“While other businesses have shuttered as a result of this pandemic, the grocery industry is booming," Federici continued. "Kroger workers achieved a remarkable 30% increase in identical store sales in March, a trend we expect will continue in April and May. Now is not the time to cut wages for heroes on the frontlines. These heroes deserve to share in the financial success they have created for Kroger.”

The union has also

.

Kroger says they have required all employees to wear face masks since April 25 to protect store associates, providing the needed masks, among a series of other steps the company has taken.

The store says they also have a Helping Hands Fund making more resources available through company-sponsored funds to provide financial assistance to associates who are experiencing a financial hardship.

Kroger has also added a feature for customers to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar to make donations to food banks, including when ordering through Kroger Pickup.

The store says they've donated $250,000 to hunger relief efforts in recent weeks through a variety of product and cash gifts to keep food bank shelves stocked.

"We’re doing whatever we can to respond to the need while also proactively asking our hunger relief partners how we can help,” said Allison McGee, corporate affairs manager for Kroger Mid-Atlantic. “We know the need is increasing and urgent and we’re committed to being there for our communities in this time of need.”

Stores are collecting non-perishable food items for Feeding America in collection bins at the front of Kroger stores throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

They've also hired thousands of new associates since March 22 to meet the growing demand from the COVID-19 pandemic.

To keep stores stocked and support many people unemployed by the effects of coronavirus, Kroger says they still have hundreds more positions immediately available throughout the region, including jobs at retail stores, manufacturing plants, and distribution centers. You can apply at

.

Since April 7, Kroger has been limiting the number of customers in stores to 50% of the international building code’s calculated capacity.

at Kroger as well.

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