VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Kroger union employees protested Thursday afternoon demanding that the COVID-19 hazard pay programs be reinstated after being canceled earlier this summer.
A small group of workers stood and chanted outside the Kroger located at 975 Providence Square Shop Center in Virginia Beach. The employees are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 400 chapter.
Beginning April 3, the company provided bonuses and offered “hero pay” — an extra $2 an hour — to its workers who kept the stores operational while risking possible exposure to the coronavirus. The final installment was paid on June 18 as a one-time bonus for qualified associates.
In total, there were 18 simultaneous protests that took place at Giant, Safeway, and Kroger stores in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, all demanding hazard pay at all three companies.
“Every day when people show up for work here, they’re putting themselves at risk for catching this virus,” said Robert Crawford, a Kroger employee.
Workers who protested said the pandemic hasn’t ended so they question why the hazard pay did.
“I was nervous to come back but you know, got to pay my bills, got to eat so I had no choice but to come back,” said employee Lachell Gillard.
One longtime employee told 10 On Your Side she’s been personally affected by the coronavirus. She said employees’ families are at risk too.
“I know an associate who has passed away from it. I have friends who have passed away from it,” said Tanya Sealy. “To fight for $2 an hour, we shouldn’t have to do that.”
In response to a WAVY request, Kroger corporate provided a statement about hazard pay for its employees.
“Our most urgent priority throughout this pandemic has been to provide a safe environment for our associates and customers while meeting our societal obligation to provide open stores, ecommerce solutions and an efficiently operating supply chain so that our communities have access to fresh, affordable food and essentials.
“We are proud of our dedicated associates who are on the frontlines, serving our customers when they need us most. Since March, we’ve invested over $830 million dollars to reward our associates (i.e., Appreciation Pay, Hero Bonus and Thank You Pay) and safeguard our associates and customers. We also recently thanked our associates with a $100 store credit and 1,000 fuel points.
“We continue to listen to our associates and take steps to ensure their safety and well-being. We also continue to execute dozens of safety measures and provide support to our associates through benefits like paid emergency leave and our $15 million Helping Hands fund, which provides financial support to associates experiencing hardships due to COVID-19.”
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