Food 4 Less workers protest outside their grocery store to call on the parent company Kroger Co. to keep stores open and condemn the decision to close some of its locations due to the city’s emergency ordinance for temporary hazard pay during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Long Beach, California, U.S., February 3, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Remember that grocery store worker who helped you secure that last four-pack of extra-soft Charmin during the scramble for toilet paper at the start of the pandemic? Now grocery employees feel expendable, not essential, as they wait for vaccines and a possible increase in hazard pay. 

Vaccines are still distributed state-by-state, and many states, including Texas, have left essential workers out of the second phase, preferring to inoculate seniors and those with serious health risks instead. Some health workers, including William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, believe that policy makes sense, as it should help reduce hospitalizations and deaths from the disease.

“In order to do that, we need to begin vaccinating those at the highest risks,” Moss said. 

 But grocery workers are feeling disheartened, especially after they got their hopes up because a Centers for Disease Control panel recommended that the second phase include grocery store workers and other essential employees. 

“Apparently we are not front-line workers when it comes to getting the vaccine. That was kind of a shock,” said Dawn Hand, who works at a Kroger supermarket in Houston, where she said three of her co-workers were out with the virus last week. She watches others getting vaccinated at the in-store pharmacy without knowing when she’ll get her turn.

Essential workers make up half of all low-paid professions, which may be driving the movement for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, one supported by Labor Secretary nominee Marty Walsh. Some cities are also requiring hazard pay for them, including Seattle, which in January approved an increase of $4 an hour for grocery store workers who work for businesses that employ more than 500 people. San Jose approved a similar measure a week ago, and Coachella, Calif., also extended the so-called “hero pay” to farmworkers. 

The work can be dangerous, both from the risk of catching the coronavirus and the backlash from policing customers – one customer slapped a King Soopers worker in Colorado telling her to put a mask on. And wage increases can cause problems, too, as Kroger announced it would close a pair of Long Beach stores rather than pay the extra $4 an hour in hero pay. 

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

Grocery Store Closures Demonstrate The Pitfalls Of Joe Biden’s Push To Double Minimum Wage – Forbes – 2/3/2021
Commendable intentions and unfortunate outcomes sums up some of the most prominent policy initiatives pursued by California’s progressive governing class. The latest example comes out of Long Beach, where local officials recently imposed a targeted 28% minimum wage hike that has killed jobs by causing the closure of at least two area grocery stores. 

Vaccination: Trump’s Failure Leaves Workers Unprotected – DC Report – 2/10/2021
The Trump administration’s failure to develop a plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines along with persistent problems with the rollout are spreading fear among American workers forced to risk exposure to the killer virus. “I don’t feel safe,” Phil Andrews, a Petco dog groomer in Miami, said last week. “I don’t feel that the companies have our backs. I don’t look forward to going in.”

Lesson of the Day: ‘‘‘We Are Forgotten”: Grocery Workers Hope for Higher Pay and Vaccinations – New York Times – 2/9/2021
The grocery industry has boomed in the past year as Americans have stayed home and avoided restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic. However, this increase in business has not always meant better wages for grocery store workers, who for the most part have been left off vaccine priority lists.

Degree Or Not, I Believe Minimum Wage Workers Deserve A Real Living Wage – Blavity – 1/29/2021
We’re still in the middle of a pandemic, it has been over a year now and many Americans still have to scrap for chump change in order to keep their bills paid. We live in a country where the government thought a one-time payment of $1,200 was enough to keep families satisfied. Not to mention, many working-class families lost their jobs and millions of people weren’t approved for unemployment benefits. Y’all ex-office holder, the orange guy, thought COVID-19 was a hoax and decided to wave it off as if it was the flu 2.0.

Essential workers comprise about half of all workers in low-paid occupations. They deserve a $15 minimum wage. – Brookings – 2/5/2021
Despite possible reluctance in the Senate, increasing the minimum wage is a long-overdue necessity—especially following a pandemic that has cost American workers so much already. Below, we outline the reasons why America’s essential workforce deserves a raise.

Nearly a year into the pandemic, grocery workers in Texas are more fatigued than ever as they await vaccine access – The Texas Tribune – 2/4/2021
In the middle of a recent shift at Kroger in Cedar Hill, Jackie Ryan was assisting customers with self-checkout when an elderly woman asked for help finding canned pumpkin. While Ryan pointed her in the right direction, the woman mentioned that she had been feeling sick. After Ryan helped her and her son pay for their groceries, the woman suddenly collapsed.

Essential grocery-store workers deserve hazard pay – The Seattle Times – 2/14/2021
To work in the grocery store is both an honor, and lately, a curse. Our jobs have always served the community and provided something of value, something real. Not just a bag of groceries and the medicine from the store’s pharmacy. Something more. Something dependable, familiar and safe. A year ago, that world changed.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of tweets showing different viewpoints on the topic.

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