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Published Friday, May 15, 2020 in The Seattle Times

Kroger Backs Down, Will Hand Out More 'Thank You' Pay to Frontline Supermarket Workers Kroger Backs Down, Will Hand Out More 'Thank You' Pay to Frontline Supermarket Workers

Kroger says it will give "thank you" pay to frontline workers through mid-June – just days after saying it would end extra "hero" hazard pay to workers that have kept the grocer humming through the new coronavirus outbreak.

The one-time Thank You Pay, which will be $400 for qualified full-time associates and $200 for qualified part-time associates, will be paid out in two installments on May 30 and June 18, Kroger said.

The previous plan to stop bonus pay on Saturday had drawn the ire of Kroger's union the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which said the pandemic crisis was far from over and its workers are still risking their lives and health coming to work.

The Cincinnati-based company did not address the dispute with its union in the Friday announcement. The grocer estimates the new bonus will be $130 million to workers.

“Our associates have been instrumental in feeding America while also helping to flatten the curve during the initial phases of the pandemic. To recognize and thank our associates for their incredible work during this historic time, we offered special pay in March, April and May,” CEO Rodney McMullen said in a statement.

Though a one-time lump sum, "Thank you" pay looks richer than Kroger's previous $2-per-hour "hero" pay. 

Union officials said they were happy to see Kroger provide additional pay as the pandemic grinds on, but stuck to their previous position that it should last throughout the crisis.

"We appreciate the additional compensation for our members... COVID-19 is not going away soon," said UFCW Local 75 president Kevin Garvey. "Our members still have to work in the same conditions and deal with the same pressures. They are worth every penny of the $2 premium and the (latest) bonus."

Garvey concluded with a pledge the union "will continue to pressure Kroger to pay additional compensation."

Besides Kroger stores, the grocer operates several regional supermarket chains in 35 states, including Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, Ralphs, Mariano's, Fry's, Smith's, King Soopers, QFC and others. The company has nearly 2,800 stores and employs 540,000 workers.