Some essential workers get raises, boosts in benefits

Companies praise those who have kept businesses running


Many grocery and home improvement workers are being rewarded by their companies for enduring several weeks of chaotic shopping and for putting themselves at risk to provide important goods and services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some essential businesses are giving workers enhanced benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, from one-time bonuses to free lunch during shifts. What is deemed essential versus nonessential has been somewhat controversial. Certain franchise locations in Colorado like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s stayed open as long as possible before being forced to shut down under threat of citation from state authorities.

Grocery stores, feed stores and hardware stores are considered essential. Essential businesses, as defined by the state, are businesses that provide critical infrastructure, manufacturing, retail or other services, health care operations, construction or necessities to those in need.

Many stores have implemented plexiglass partitions at check lanes, adjusted store hours to give employees more time to rest, clean and restock.

Home Depot has seen a surge in activity since the start of stay-at-home orders, according to a release from the company. Home Depot announced April 1 it has added 80 hours of paid time off for all full-time hourly workers, 40 for part-time, to be used any time during 2020 or paid out if not used. Full-time workers age 65 of older have been given 160 hours of paid time off, 80 for part-time. All full-time employees will be given bonuses of $100 per week and $50 per week for part-time.

Albertson’s Companies, which owns Safeway and Albertson’s supermarkets, announced April 7 it has joined the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union in a joint effort to seek a temporary designation of “extended first responders” or “emergency personnel” for supermarket employees for priority in things like COVID-19 testing or access to personal protection equipment during the outbreak.

Kroger, which owns King Soopers, is offering companywide paid sick leave, enhanced benefits for child care and mental health services, a benefit giving some hourly workers access to their paychecks faster, and companywide pay raises of $2 above base rate.

“Kroger’s most urgent priority is to provide a safe environment for associates and customers, with open stores, comprehensive digital solutions and an efficiently operating supply chain, so that our communities have access to fresh, affordable food and essentials,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO, in an April 1 release. “We are so proud of our dedicated associates who are on the front lines serving our customers when they need us most. A huge thank you to all of our associates, whose efforts are nothing short of heroic.”

Murdoch’s in Parker, a feed and supply chain, has been giving employees free lunch, bought from local restaurants, during their shifts. At-risk employees have been given paid time off and all employees received small bonuses.

Lowe’s announced in an April 2 release the company is providing a $2 an hour wage increase for all employees for the month of April. The company is also providing employees with personal protective equipment.

“We are continually working on ways to protect and support our associates and our customers during this time when we are all adjusting how we work and live,” said Marvin Ellison, Lowe’s president and CEO in the release. “I’m announcing these new operational changes as we continue to keep the health and well-being of our associates and customers top of mind, especially as they look to us now more than ever for essential products, services and support.”

COVID-19, Colorado


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