Grocery store workers are suddenly on the front lines in the coronavirus outbreak, and they’re anxious


by Katie Park, The Philadelphia Inquirer (PA)

March 18, 2020


As public officials have ordered rafts of businesses to close amid the coronavirus outbreak and other retailers have independently opted to shut down, thousands of non-unionized national grocery store employees — suddenly on the front lines of a public health crisis — have had to contend with struggles beyond terse crowds and shelves turned barren by panic-buying.


At grocery stores, which have been deemed essential businesses and can remain open, workers have reported feeling anxious for their own personal health, criticized the absence of hazard pay, and expressed discomfort over the lack of assurance of guaranteed pay should their stores close.


“People take drugstore and grocery store workers for granted," said Wendell Young, president of Local 1776 Keystone State of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents employees for ShopRite, Acme, Rite Aid, and the state-controlled Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores.


Grocery chains that include Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s said they had taken measures to protect employees. Those workers are not part of Local 1776, Young said.


Whole Foods said in a public announcement that part-time and full-time employees started to receive on Monday a $2 increase to their hourly wage, in what could be interpreted to be the high-end grocery chain’s version of hazard pay. The same measure was extended to Whole Foods employees in the United Kingdom. The U.S. Department of Labor classifies hazard pay as extra compensation for dangerous or otherwise physically taxing work.


Also Monday, in an email provided to The Inquirer, Whole Foods said Amazon, its parent, would nationally hire for 100,000...