Grocery union leader calls Ralphs’ coronavirus pay bonus ‘shameful’

March 24, 2020

By JACK KATZANEK | The Press-Enterprise

The union that represents workers at Southern California’s very busy supermarkets is strongly criticizing Ralphs and Food 4 Less over its coronavirus-related bonus for employees, calling the $150-$300 payments “shameful.”

Kroger’s CEO Rodney McMullen on Friday announced one-time bonuses of $150 for part-time workers and $300 for full-time employees who are straining to keep the stores stocked and clean. McMullen said the company also would expand its emergency leave program during the coronavirus outbreak.

Joe Duffle, the president of Local 1167 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, issued an open letter Saturday to Kroger, writing the one-time bonus “is shameful and it shows the shear (sic) greed of this corporation.”

“This is obviously an attempt to make as much money as you can during this crisis,” the letter reads. “This is not the time to worry about your rich investors’ returns, but it is time to take care of the communities that you claim to serve and the employees that you put on the front lines.”

Burt Flickinger III, a retail analyst with Strategic Resource Group, said that, from what executives are telling him, the chaotic situation at stores has led to record sales.

Typically, the busiest day of the year for grocery shopping is the day before Thanksgiving, Flickinger said. But over the last month, at least one day each week has exceeded that pre-holiday shopping spree.

“Normally the three months from February through April are the slowest of the year for food retail,” Flickinger said. “This time, it’s on track to be a record for any 90-day period.”

The same day Kroger announced its bonuses, Stater Bros. Markets said it would give all its workers in stores, warehouses and offices a $2 hourly raise for the next four weeks. The parent company of Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions said it would raise its store workers’ pay $2 an hour this week, then revisit the situation at month’s end.

The hourly raises stand to put more money in a workers’ pocket, depending on the hours worked. If a Stater Bros. employee works 10 hours of overtime per week over the four weeks, it could mean be a pay bump of more than $600 spread over the period.