Bonuses and pay hikes: How grocery stores keep workers on the front lines

A wave of top US retailers and grocers are giving cash bonuses and wage hikes to their cashiers, stockers and warehouse workers on the front lines of the cor...

Posted: Mar 23, 2020 3:38 PM
Updated: Mar 23, 2020 7:33 PM

A wave of top US retailers and grocers are giving cash bonuses and wage hikes to their cashiers, stockers and warehouse workers on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.

The pay bumps, designed to retain and reward workers during the pandemic, are temporary. But industry critics hope they serve as a path forward toward improved pay for some of America's low-wage workers.

Walmart will pay special cash bonuses to its full- and part-time hourly workers totaling $550 million and raise wages for workers at its fulfillment centers by $2 an hour through Memorial Day. Amazon is temporarily boosting its minimum wage for hourly workers to $17 an hour, up from $15, and raising overtime pay for warehouse workers. Target is also upping its minimum wage to $17 for hourly workers and paying out bonuses to 20,000 hourly store team leaders. On Monday, CVS said it will give bonuses of up to $500 to hourly workers, store managers and pharmacists.

Grocers, whose employees are now designated as emergency workers in several states, are taking similar steps. Albertsons, which also owns Safeway, is raising wages by $2 an hour, Kroger is giving full-time workers a $300 cash bonus and part-timers $150, and Trader Joe's is setting up a bonus pool for employees.

H-E-B in Texas and Whole Foods are also temporarily raising hourly pay. BJ's Wholesale Club said Monday that it will raise wages by $2 an hour for workers and give bonuses to managers.

The last time so many companies announced pay hikes and showered employees with bonuses was after President Donald Trump signed corporate tax cuts into law in late 2017.

Now, grocers and retailers staying open through the crisis are trying to offer their vulnerable employees additional inducements to come into work and keep operations running smoothly. These companies are also hiring additional workers to keep up with demand and to give their regular employees a breather.

"These retail companies are trying to incentivize workers to come to work," said Patricia Campos-Medina, co-director of the New York State AFL-CIO/Cornell Union Leadership Institute at Cornell University's ILR School and a former SEIU official.

Campos-Medina predicts that pressure will rise on companies to make temporary wage hikes permanent.

"The expectations have been set that these companies can pay a higher wage if they are forced to," she said. "American workers will demand more from employers."

Despite the pay raises, some critics say Walmart, Amazon and other companies are not doing enough for their employees during the crisis. Walmart and Amazon have instituted emergency leave policies related to coronavirus.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts wrote to the CEOs of the those companies and of McDonald's Friday pressing them to expand their paid sick leave policies.

"I am encouraged that you have recognized the importance of paid sick leave during the current crisis by introducing emergency sick leave policies," Warren said. "However, I am concerned that gaps in these policies will leave many workers without the option to follow best medical advice when they are sick, putting themselves, their colleagues, and their communities at greater risk."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 119066

Reported Deaths: 3612
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21563768
Lake10745324
Elkhart6734112
St. Joseph6679115
Allen6364205
Hamilton4965109
Vanderburgh384231
Hendricks2779124
Monroe267137
Tippecanoe259013
Johnson2362125
Clark226757
Porter222447
Delaware201162
Cass19589
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Madison171475
LaPorte151941
Warrick140743
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Howard133964
Kosciusko127117
Bartholomew119357
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Dubois100919
Boone99746
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Jackson77610
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Daviess68129
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Harrison59824
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Blackford1223
Pulaski1141
Crawford1100
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 152907

Reported Deaths: 4783
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin27283615
Cuyahoga17603657
Hamilton13340321
Montgomery7993166
Lucas7377364
Butler6151112
Summit5393252
Warren313649
Mahoning3114282
Marion311447
Stark2946175
Pickaway268445
Lorain234286
Delaware232821
Fairfield214654
Licking196063
Columbiana195180
Wood194273
Trumbull1921132
Clark185341
Clermont176123
Lake166051
Greene153634
Medina149339
Miami147652
Allen147372
Portage117766
Mercer113919
Erie96047
Tuscarawas94320
Wayne94268
Richland94119
Ross90426
Madison85512
Darke81144
Athens7402
Geauga73349
Hancock73110
Belmont72427
Lawrence68622
Shelby66910
Ashtabula66248
Auglaize62511
Putnam62523
Sandusky58720
Huron5727
Union5512
Scioto5287
Seneca49514
Ottawa47230
Muskingum4553
Preble44716
Holmes3999
Jefferson3424
Henry33715
Defiance33212
Champaign3143
Logan3143
Clinton30512
Perry3039
Fulton2991
Brown2923
Knox28915
Jackson2667
Washington26323
Morrow2622
Hardin25713
Ashland2484
Crawford2486
Coshocton23511
Fayette2346
Highland2313
Williams2163
Wyandot21512
Pike2040
Gallia19713
Meigs17711
Guernsey1748
Hocking1679
Carroll1527
Adams1374
Van Wert1283
Paulding1130
Monroe11018
Harrison643
Morgan500
Vinton483
Noble350
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