Trader Joe’s Offers More Pandemic Pay
Trader Joe’s has increased its pandemic premium pay for workers — the latest development in a story that involves government mandates and closed stores.
In a recent announcement, the food retailer said that it began paying hourly employees an additional $2 per hour at the beginning of the pandemic. Effective Feb. 1, Trader Joe’s said the “thank you” premium for all hourly, non-management crew members was increased by $2, for a total of $4 an hour.
“Moreover, during this time, we have offered crew members a few additional ways to qualify for and maintain health insurance,” the retailer said. “We want crew members to have the opportunity to take extended time off without repercussions to their benefits.”
The news comes as Seattle mandates an extra $4 per hour for employees of grocery operators with more than 500 workers worldwide, and for locations of at least 100,000 square feet. The measure does not apply to convenience stores or farmers’ markets. Food retailers would have to pay that premium for as long as the city remains in a pandemic emergency — which has been the case since March.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council on Feb. 2 voted in favor of a similar measure — one calling for an extra $5 per hour. The council has requested a report on the potential economic impacts of such a mandate.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union praised the L.A. vote.
"Today’s unanimous vote by the Los Angeles City Council for grocery worker hazard pay sends another powerful message that the safety of grocery workers must come first," said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. "From Long Beach to Los Angeles, and all across this country, brave essential workers have been risking their lives to keep food on the table every day during this crisis, and these brave men and women have earned and deserve hazard pay."
An example of potential impacts of pay mandates recently came from Long Beach, California.
Kroger is blaming mandated pandemic hazard pay for the upcoming closings of two supermarkets it owns there. The stores scheduled to close are: The Ralphs store located at 3380 N. Los Coyotes Diagonal, and the Food 4 Less store located at 2185 E. South Street. The two closures decrease the chains’ store count by 25% in Long Beach.
“The irreparable harm that will come to employees and local citizens as a direct result of the City of Long Beach’s attempt to pick winners and losers, is deeply unfortunate,” a company spokesperson said. “We are truly saddened that our associates and customers will ultimately be the real victims of the city council’s actions.”
With more than 500 stores in 40-plus states, Monrovia, California-based Trader Joe’s is No. 28 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 9 million-plus customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 3 on The PG 100 list.