The United Food and Commercial Workers union has reviewed The Kroger Co.’s balance sheet and said the numbers don’t add up—at least when it comes to the disparity between executive and grocery worker pay. The UFCW has issued a release knocking the Cincinnati-based grocer’s two month’s long implementation of a $2-an-hour “hero pay” bonus that ended May 17, 2020, while awarding its top executive in 2020 “the most considerable pay increase of his career, a $22.4 million pay package, or 6% higher than the year before,” the UFCW said.
“A year of the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that in any natural or human-made disaster, our grocery store workers never stop working. They showed up to work every day—even at significant risk to their health and that of their families—to keep the economy moving and the country fed, said Kim Cordova, VP of UFCW International and president of UFCW Local 7, which represents more than 17,000 grocery workers in Colorado and Wyoming.
“Instead of recognizing their sacrifice, retail grocers, including Kroger, decided to take away hero pay only two months into the pandemic while the virus continued to rage. This callous move to take away hazard pay came on the heels of one of the most profitable years for Kroger,” continued Cordova in a statement.
Kroger insists it has increased worker compensation and plans to continue such investments in the future.
“Under CEO Rodney McMullen’s leadership, Kroger has increased pay for associates by more than $800 million since 2018 and announced plans to continue to invest significantly in associate wages in 2021,” a Kroger spokesperson told WGB.“This is in addition to the $2.5 billion Kroger has invested since the start of the pandemic to reward our workforce, better secure pensions, and implement safety measures nationwide.”
And like other grocers, Kroger has focused on encouraging its workers to get vaccinated—offering a financial benefit to those who do so—rather than offering continued pay raises that don’t protect its associates from COVID-19.
“We continue to encourage and support our associates to get a COVID-19 vaccination, offering $100 to any associate who receives the manufacturer’s recommended doses of the vaccine,” the Kroger spokesperson added.
The UFCW’s stance is that vaccinations aren’t sufficient compensation in light of grocery’s record sales during the pandemic.
“As people continue to get vaccinated and the country continues to open, grocery store workers should be commemorated and compensated for their service,” said Cordova. “Kroger has just signed a big IOU to the workers who deserve the credit for its record-breaking profits.”