Kroger, the nation’s largest grocer, has just announced that it’s ending the $2 hourly raise given to workers at the onset of coronavirus on May 14th. After just two months, this hazard pay or “Hero Pay,” as it’s often called, will be rescinded in favor of pre-coronavirus wages. The increase was intended to compensate for work in hazardous conditions and to help the company ramp-up an increase in business due to the pandemic.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) representing 55,000 Kroger workers denounces the move and advocates that the increase in pay remain in place in the face of ongoing risks to workers. The company has seen monthly sales skyrocket 30% since February, particularly as grocers become a safe haven for Wall Street investors. With no end to the pandemic in sight, business is expected to remain strong for Kroger and other grocers.

Kroger spokespeople have insisted that the pay was always intended to be temporary, even as grocery store workers all over the country continue to die from the virus. While the exact numbers of these deaths remain unknown, grocery store staff are proving exceptionally vulnerable to America’s uneven pandemic response. “It’s clear the danger isn’t gone even as states reopen—neither should hero pay,” said a spokesperson for the UFCW.

Kroger has attempted to blunt the strong public backlash to the move by highlighting that their regular compensation scale – which ranges from $15 to $20 – is competitive for a tumultuous job market. However, the credit could easily go to the UFCW, whose support effectively serves all Kroger’s frontline employees despite representing only a third of Kroger’s workforce.

While concern is primarily for the health of these workers, it’s important to understand that livelihoods are also at stake. The hazard pay they’re receiving isn’t only serving to recognize their contribution to helping millions of Americans maintain access to food and other supplies, but also act as an important safety net for families who have seen incomes evaporate due to COVID-19.

Across the country, multiple generations of workers under a single roof have been caught in the tsunami of jobs loss. More and more lower-income families have been relying on multiple incomes even before the pandemic. So, the $2 wage increase will potentially amount to thousands more in pockets of the most essential workers who are now sole bread-winners.

Kroger anticipates first-quarter sales to top its 2020 projections and has purchased $355 million of its own shares in the first quarter, holding about $2.3 billion in cash and temporary cash investments. The Cincinnati-based chain operates 2,758 grocery stores in 35 states and tallied 2019 sales of $122.3 billion. It employs nearly 500,000 people with most Kroger Stores, negotiating union contracts regionally or on a store-by-store basis.

We believe that as long as the hazards of COVID 19 still exist for workers, so should hazard pay. It’s especially unacceptable that Kroger refuses to maintain hazard pay during times of record profits.

Please share this with your friends and family using the hashtag #EssentialHeros, telling Kroger to compensate their workers for putting themselves at risk while serving our communities!