Kroger stores give $2 ‘Hero Bonus’ to hourly wages

Coronavirus

In this March 26, 2020, file photo, Garrett Ward sprays disinfectant on a conveyor belt between checking out shoppers behind a plexiglass panel at a Hy-Vee grocery store in Overland Park, Kan. From South Africa to Italy to the U.S., grocery workers — many in low-wage jobs — are manning the front lines amid worldwide lockdowns, their work deemed essential to keep food and critical goods flowing. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain, said it will give all hourly employees a $2-an-hour “Hero Bonus” through April 18.

The move comes as U.S. grocery and food delivery workers are insisting employers pay them more and provide masks, gloves, gowns and access to testing. Whole Foods workers called for a recent “sickout” to demand better conditions, including double pay. A group of independent contractors for the Instacart grocery delivery service walked out to force more protections.

Some of the biggest employers in the U.S. are responding.

Kroger’s bonus follows temporary $2 pay bumps by Walmart, Target and others.

Walmart’s raise is just for hourly employees in distribution centers, but it’s also giving bonuses to full- and part-time workers. Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, and Target will provide masks and gloves to front-line workers and limit the number of customers in stores. Walmart is taking the temperatures of its nearly 1.5 million employees when they report to work.

“Most will see it as a welcome relief,” Walmart spokesman Dan Bartlett said of the new measures.

But that doesn’t alleviate the fear when shoppers won’t follow the rules, including social distancing.

Jake Pinelli, who works at a ShopRite in Aberdeen, New Jersey, said customers don’t stay 6 feet (2 meters) away from others and typically don’t wear masks or gloves. Staffers have protective gear, but the younger employees often give it to older co-workers or those they know have health conditions.

“Most of us are terrified,” Pinelli said. But he stays on because he wants to help.

“I have not only bills to pay, but it’s the only way right now I feel like I can do anything for my community and help out,” Pinelli said.

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