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Sage Words From a Grocery Store Employee

“If shelves are empty don’t make jokes about ‘Why are the shelves clear? You guys taking a break?’ or anything of that sort,” our source says. “Many of us are working overtime, sometimes coming in at 2 am, to make it easy for customers.”
See? We told you. If shelves are empty (which, in our experience has been very few and far between of late, but there’s no need to email us about some thing you saw, we know, we’re just saying it’s not the end of the world just yet), that’s just your bad luck at this point and hopefully they have that thing soon. It does not reflect on grocery store floor workers.

Grocery workers are keeping Americans alive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what they need.

As worried Americans pack supermarket aisles in anticipation of quarantines and shelter-in-place orders, grocery workers like Courtney Meadows are working at a frantic pace to keep Americans fed and alive, and risking their own health in the process.

Meadows, a cashier at Kroger in Beckley, W.Va., said her store is the busiest she has seen it in 10 years on the job. “I have worked through snow scares, a blizzard, two derechos, holidays, anything that can impact a grocery store,” she told me. “This is the absolute worst I have seen it. It is a sea of people everywhere.”

Over the last week, I traveled to supermarkets across the Washington, D.C. region and interviewed workers from Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and the District to hear—in their words—how COVID-19 is impacting them. These crowded stores I visited had few visible safeguards or protections for workers.

“We aren’t staying six feet away from the customers,” said Michelle Lee, a Safeway cashier in Alexandria, Va. “When we ring them up, they are like two feet away from us. We check out 200 customers a day. A doctor can wear a mask and protective gear. We don’t have all of that.”

Amber Stevens, a cashier at Shoppers in Prince George’s County, Md., expressed concern over social distancing as well. “I do still have a job to go to, but it isn’t helping me with social distancing because I am hands-on with customers,” she told me. “That is the scary part. Dealing with money, having to be so close to people.”

More than their own health, the grocery store employees I interviewed expressed the most concern about the safety of those around them: their loved ones at home, their elderly customers, their colleagues with underlying health conditions, and their neighbors in crowded apartment buildings. Several workers welled up with emotion as they described how hard it is to be unable to care for older relatives during the pandemic.

“All of that worry plus the stress of double the number of customers we normally have,” said Lisa Harris, a cashier at Kroger in Richmond, Va. “This isn’t just for one day. It is for weeks.”

As grocery workers put their lives on the line—often for low wages and few benefits—it is imperative that employers, policymakers, and even customers act with urgency to protect, support, and compensate them.

EMPLOYERS MUST KEEP GROCERY WORKERS HEALTHY

Employers need to implement immediate steps to reduce grocery workers’ exposure to COVID-19. First, employers should expand access to personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves and end any restrictions on workers wearing them. While supplies of protective masks and gloves are extremely limited across the country, employers and policymakers should prioritize PPE for grocery workers as they become available. Employers should provide adequate cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer, regular opportunities for workers to wash their hands, and frequent equipment cleaning.

Second, stores should shorten hours and limit the number of customers at any given time. While several stores—including Trader Joe’s, Walmart, and Safeway—have limited store hours and introduced “senior only” hours, most stores are not following the CDC’s guidance of limiting gatherings to 50 people. Even tighter restrictions may be needed to keep workers safe as the virus spreads; for instance, some stores in China are checking customers’ temperatures before they enter the store.

Third, grocery stores should implement additional measures to protect workers and enforce safe spacing of customers. Albertsons, which owns Safeway and 19 other grocery chains, was the first major company to announce they will install plexiglass “sneeze-guard” barriers at checkouts in its 2,200 stores over the next two weeks. Walmart and Kroger have made similar commitments, and other grocery stores should follow.

Even in the absence of specific CDC guidelines for grocery workers, employers should act boldly and creatively to modify stores to keep workers safe, continuously adapt to evolving best practices, and respond to safety priorities identified by unions like the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents over 1.2 million workers.

INCREASE COMPENSATION AND OFFER HAZARD PAY

The coronavirus pandemic has put a harsh spotlight on the low wages that grocery workers earn for their life-saving work. At Kroger, the country’s second-largest grocery chain with 453,000 workers, the average hourly wage of cashiers is just $9.94 per hour, according to estimates on Indeed.com.

Lisa Harris, a Kroger cashier, described the financial hardships she and her low-wage colleagues face: “I have coworkers who stand all day serving people, and then have to go pay for their own groceries with food stamps. I am very lucky that my boyfriend works in pizza because that is our survival food. If we can’t afford to buy food, he brings home a pizza.”

Even in “normal” times, grocery workers—like other service and low-wage workers—deserve better wages. In these extreme times, adequately compensating them is even more imperative. As grocery sales soar and their stock prices rise, employers should provide additional compensation and hazard pay to their workers on the front line.

“I think that some pay increase would be wonderful,” Kroger cashier Courtney Meadows told me. “I don’t think they understand the toll that comes through in our lives. They don’t see it. They don’t see the panic on people’s faces.”

In response to the pandemic, the two largest grocery employers, Kroger and Walmart, have offered workers one-time bonuses of $300. Responding to pressure from the UFCW, Safeway and Shoppers are now offering an additional $2 per hour of hazard pay, while Whole Foods and Target are also raising pay $2 per hour.

These pay increases are an important start, but they don’t go far enough. The raises should be permanent, and enough to provide a family-sustaining wage to workers.

ENSURE ACCESS TO HEALTH INSURANCE AND EXTEND PAID SICK LEAVE

Now more than ever, paid sick leave and health insurance are critical for grocery workers. Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of grocery workers didn’t receive paid sick leave from their employers. Responding to public outrage and pressure from employees and unions, most large employers now have updated their sick leave policy to respond to COVID-19. However, their policies don’t go far enough: They are temporary, focus narrowly on COVID-19, and are insufficient to meet the needs of workers.

Companies including Safeway, Kroger, and Walmart are now offering 14 days paid sick leave for workers with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. But COVID-19 tests are in extremely short supply and many workers with suspected cases will be unable to get tested. Employers should modify paid leave policies to allow flexibility for ill workers to access the benefits even without a confirmed test, at least until testing is more widely available.

Policies should cover paid leave for grocery workers to care for their immediate family members or people they live with if they become ill. Employers should also compensate workers for any coronavirus-related medical bills that are not covered by their health insurance.

Employers should provide extra support to grocery workers who are especially high-risk, such as older workers and the immunocompromised. The most vulnerable workers may need to simply stay home during the pandemic and not work for weeks or months. Employers should do their part to ensure those workers have extended paid leave or other forms of adequate compensation and benefits, including health insurance.

CUSTOMERS CAN HELP KEEP GROCERY WORKERS SAFE

A major concern for the workers I interviewed was the actions of individual customers that could jeopardize their health. Many workers noted that customers continue to come to their store even when they are sick.

“Some customers will come through the line and cough or sneeze in their hand,” said Safeway cashier Michelle Lee. “If you are sick, you should stay home or cough in their elbow.”

Customers should do their part by keeping a safe distance from workers at checkout and throughout the store, practicing proper hygiene when coughing or sneezing, and staying home when ill.

RIGHT NOW, GROCERY WORKERS ARE EMERGENCY PERSONNEL

On March 15, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz made grocery store employees and food distribution personnel eligible for free child care by designating them as emergency workers. Four days later, Vermont’s Department of Public Safety added grocery workers to its list of essential personnel, giving them free child care at school-based centers set up by the state.

Other states should follow the lead of Minnesota and Vermont and designate grocery workers as emergency personnel, granting them the same protections and benefits as first responders and health workers.

If we had an opportunity to get free child care, people like me could go in,” Matt Milzman, a 29-year-old Safeway cashier in Washington, D.C. and father of two small children, told me. “They need all the people they can. I am low risk and healthy. I would much rather me work than someone who is older with a million health problems.”

Grocery workers are among the true heroes of the pandemic, providing basic necessities to keep Americans alive, but also human comfort for their customers during an anxious time.

“I choose to be happy and positive,” cashier Courtney Meadows told me. “If you can talk and make someone laugh, that might be the only positive thing in their life that day. That is what I choose to do.”

We owe them not only our gratitude, but the protection, support, and compensation they deserve.

Source: Brookings

Summary of UFCW Local 99 Telephone Town Hall with Membership

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Last night we held a telephone town hall where members had the opportunity to call in to hear President McLaughlin’s latest updates on how the COVID-19 virus is affecting our workplaces and our lives in general.

We are grateful so many members were able to call in. We communicated an enormous amount of information, so for those of you who were on the call, and for those of you who weren’t able to call, here is a summary of the topics we covered:

    • First, we are enormously proud of the work our members are doing in the stores. Your courage is commendable and we appreciate the personal sacrifices you are making.
    • Many of our union sisters and brothers in other industries aren’t as fortunate as most of our UFCW members in terms of having work, from those in IATSE to UNITE HERE and many others including some of our own. We urge those who have been laid off or have suffered a reduction in hours to contact union employers who are hiring right now.
    • We know these are probably the most stressful conditions you’ve ever experienced personally and professionally. We are working around the clock to do what we can to advocate for our members.
    • We are helping our communities maintain a sense of normalcy in these crazy times to help avoid a sense of panic.
  • Your union is here for you; you’re always our #1 priority, especially now.
  • It’s likely there will be a lot more questions than answers, so we ask for everyone’s patience in this unprecedented time.
  • Procedures and reactions to the virus are changing daily and solutions are fluid for everyone at all levels: your union, your companies, our state and the federal government.
  • There is no “one size fits all” approach to this crisis and we are handling each member’s question on a case by case basis;
  • So many people are affected by this… not only food workers. For example, our members at Precept Medical Products in Douglas, AZ, which is making personal protection equipment for hospitals as well as members at the Copper Queen Hospital in Southern Arizona.
  • Our efforts, politically, in the community and with the union companies, are not only on behalf of UFCW members; our voice is being heard on behalf of all workers throughout AZ and the country.
  • Your union office building is not open to the public but, staff and reps are working almost around the clock at your service. We urge you to call the office or your union rep with any questions you may have.
  • Individual face-to-face appointments can be arranged, when necessary.
  • The safety of our members is an ongoing concern and is constantly monitored.
    • Local 99 is in near daily contact with the supermarket companies and is also coordinating efforts with the UFCW International Union, which is dealing with this crisis across North America, to take the necessary steps to protect members on the front lines.
    • Some of the new policies include:
      • Increased “appreciation pay” for hourly employees; we have heard from a few members that they are not pleased with what the companies have offered. Be assured we are working with the companies, nationally and locally, to arrive at an improved, long-term solution;
      • Use of protective gear including masks and gloves;
      • Proposing ending the use of reusable bags;
      • Proposing restricting customers from bringing product from one part of a store to other areas within a store. For example, restricting bringing meat from the case to a meat cutter to further handle;
      • Implementation of new hours and regulations to enforce social distancing
      • Access to hand-washing stations and the ability to wash and sanitize more frequently while at work;
      • Workers are regularly reminded to carefully follow the precautions set forth by the CDC.
  • Local 99 is working with the companies to be sure any member who is affected by this virus, either through illness or quarantine, will receive pay, in addition to other sick leave benefits earned under the union contract.
  • There are differences in each company’s policies so members should contact their union reps to discuss specific circumstances as they arise.
  • Local 99 members have the best health care plans in the retail industry and access to some of the best doctors in Arizona.
  • In the cases of employees who are at high risk and do not feel they should work in the stores at this time, many union employers have agreed to permit these workers to go on leave. Members may be able to use unused vacation time earned under the contract.
  • Last week, the governor announced he is mobilizing efforts to help with all of the extra work in our industries as a result of the crisis. It is not expected for the National Guard to be working side-by-side with members in our stores.
  • Many union companies are hiring and we encourage anyone who wants to work to apply.
  • Retirees have also asked if they can return to work in our industry and we are working with companies to address this issue and will get in touch with Retirees if the restrictions are modified.
  • Yesterday, the governor classified grocery workers as essential personnel. We are in discussions with elected officials in the legislature to classify retail food workers as first responders for even more benefits for workers in these challenging times.
  • Local 99 is in touch with the members using all forms of communication, from postings on the web site and social media to printed material mailed to the homes for families’ education, as well as individual contacts by phone, text and email.
  • You probably already know the what to do to avoid the contracting and spreading the virus and what symptoms to watch out for. To summarize, they are:
    • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after touching surfaces in public areas, and especially if you are around someone who isn’t feeling well. Also, clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects;
    • Avoid contact with anyone known to be sick;
    • These are the typical symptoms of the virus:
      • Dry cough, fever, shortness of breath;
    • If you are sick, please do not go to work. Stay at home.
    • If you suspect that you might have been infected and require medical attention, you have options.
      • First, if you cannot breathe or if you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.
      • You can also get medical advice from your home on the telephone by contacting Teladoc.
      • Lastly, you can contact your medical provider.

 

What is Teladoc?

  • Teladoc is a fast and easy way to connect with a health professional. It can replace an in-person office visit for most cases.
    • If you are covered under the plan, it is a resource for members and their families without further burdening the health care system.
    • Even if you are healthy, we encourage all of members to create an account so, in the event you might need it, you will have access to a licensed AZ doctor to assess your condition, answer questions about virus testing and address any other medical issues that may be of concern.
  • If you or a family member feels some of the symptoms associated with COVID-19, Teladoc can help address those concerns with a health professional who might advise you to get tested.
  • Please click on this link to Local 99’s web site com/Teladoc and follow our link to step-by-step instructions to create an account.
  • You can also download the Teladoc App on your smartphone.
  • If contacting Teladoc becomes necessary, we urge you to be patient as there may be a longer than normal wait for a consultation with a medical professional.

Even with the most general of answers, each member has specific needs and circumstances, so we urge you to contact your union rep and/or store manager to address the specifics of the situation.

Here are some answers to some of many questions we’ve received.

  1. I am concerned about my exposure to the public at work because I am over 60 or because I live with someone over 60 and/or I am immunocompromised. What are my options?
    At this time, you may be eligible for a leave of absence per the guidelines outlined in the CBA.  Proper documents still will be required to qualify for a leave. If you have concerns, you should consult first with your union representative, health care provider and store manager.
  1. Will I receive replacement pay if I am diagnosed with COVID-19, ordered by a health care provider to self-quarantine or sent home due to symptoms I am experiencing?
    We have been in constant contact with the employers and will continue to monitor the ongoing changes.  You will likely be eligible for pay. You should, however, contact your union representative, as they can review the specifics between the policies and give the best information for you.

    We expect to have more guidance about these and other stimulus actions being taken by the Federal government once the Senate passes a worker aid bill.

  1. I am concerned about my exposure to the public while I am still working, what is my company doing to provide time to wash hands and protective supplies such as gloves, masks and sanitizer?
    I have been notified that both Safeway and Fry’s are in the process of installing plexiglass barriers at the cash registers. They have both lifted restrictions allowing employees to wear masks while working, if that makes a member more comfortable, with the understanding that masks and gloves aren’t guaranteed by the CDC to protect against infection. Also, masks and gloves are in short supply and being prioritized for those working in health care. Companies will provide them if they’re able to but, at the moment, they are still in short supply.
  1. What if I am unable to return after 2 weeks? Will I still receive pay?
    Members who are on COVID-19 leave should contact their union representative or their store managers if more time is needed. You will need to keep proper health care provider documents updated with the company.
  1. What if the transportation systems are shut down and I am unable to get to work or arrive on time? What will happen?
    There are many issues that may arise. Right now we are not anticipating a disruption in the transportation system. However, if one occurs, we urge you to contact your union representative and store manager to discuss the problem.
  2. I have respiratory problems. What if I decide not to return to work because I’m sick?
    Contact your union rep and your health care provider and communicate their concerns with your store manager. Within 24 hours you will receive an email summarizing what we discussed in this call and it will include a number of links and resources that will help ease the anxiety and challenges we’re faced with. Please save the email as a resource for the future as well.

***

Throughout history, events like these have brought out the best in people. We urge you to:

  • Look out for one another.
  • Please don’t listen to or spread rumors.
  • Even though you’re working under tremendous pressure, it’s critical to protect your contract for tomorrow.
  • In crises, it’s tempting to put others first, but don’t put the company first now; take your breaks, take your lunches and use the contract to protect yourself and your family.
  • Don’t give up the protections we’ve fought so hard for so many decades.

We’re here to help you every step of the way. Call your union!

Stay safe. Stay healthy. And remember, we are better when we work together.

We will get through this because we WILL work together.

Teladoc is here for you

Information for dealing with Coronavirus with Teladoc

Teladoc is a fast and easy way to connect with a health professional. It can replace an in-person office visit for most cases.

  • If you are covered under the plan, it is a resource for members and their families without further burdening the health care system.
  • If you or a family member feels some of the symptoms associated with COVID-19, Teladoc can help address those concerns with a health professional who might advise you to get tested.
  • Even if you are healthy, we encourage all members to create an account so, in the event you might need it, you will have access to a licensed AZ doctor to assess your condition, answer questions about virus testing and address any other medical issues of concern.
  • If contacting Teladoc becomes necessary, we urge you to be patient, as there may be a longer than normal wait for a consultation with a medical professional.

Ways to connect to Teledoc:

Logging in if you DO have a Teladoc account

Logging in if you DON’T have a Teladoc account

  • Go to member.teladoc.com and click on the “Get Started” blue button on the right on a computer.
  • Visit Apple’s App Store or Google Play Store and search for “Teladoc”
  • If you are unsure, call (800) TEL-ADOC for more assistance.
  • Read the FAQ page at: https://www.teladoc.com/contact-us/#faqs
  • Complete a brief medical history BEFORE OUR FIRST VISIT.

What is Teladoc

  • Teladoc is a fast and easy way to connect with a health professional. It can replace an in-person office visit for most cases.
  • If you feel some of the symptoms associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, Teladoc can help you address those concerns with a health professional who might advise you to get tested.

How will members be treated?

  • Teladoc Health care providers are evaluating symptoms (e.g. fever, cough, shortness of breath) and contact history (e.g. known exposure to a person diagnosed with COVID‐19, recent travel or living in an area with an active outbreak, healthcare worker who may have increased risk of exposure) to assess COVID‐19 risk.
  • If the doctor gathers information that suggests risk of COVID‐19, we will help guide patients to the next step for care and testing as follows. In accordance with evolving local guidance, we will contact the appropriate public health department.
  • If the doctor observes symptoms and risk factors that suggest COVID‐19, s/he now has the ability to add a notation to the “excuse note” advising the patient to self‐quarantine for 14 days.
  • Healthy patients will not be re-evaluated.

Increased Wait Times

  • People are experiencing longer than usual wait times – both at in‐person care sites in their communities and in virtual care settings – and we expect that healthcare needs will continue to escalate.
  • They have updated phone, web, and App messaging to transparently share that we are experiencing high call volumes and provide useful information about COVID‐19 while they wait.
  • After a visit request is initiated, members are encouraged to be available and ready to promptly answer our callbacks, calls are cancelled after 2 unanswered callback attempts by a doctor.

What You Need to Know about Coronavirus

Coronavirus FAQ

Supermarket In Denmark Comes Up With A Brilliant Pricing Trick To Stop Hand Sanitizer Hoarding

While the whole Internet is laughing and creating memes about people hoarding toilet paper from supermarkets all over the world, there are a couple of other things particularly hard to buy these days. Masks and respirators and single-use medicinal gloves are among them but let’s not forget an item that’s been significantly more popular than usual as well. Well, yes, of course, it’s hand sanitizer. While people are stocking up on it like crazy, this supermarket in Denmark came up with a genius way to put an end to it with this simple yet brilliant pricing trick.

This guy shared on Twitter about a Danish supermarket’s idea to stop people from hoarding hand sanitizer

Image credits: _schuermann

“Rotunden” supermarket in Denmark consider themselves to be Denmark’s most beautiful supermarket and describe themselves as an exclusive shopping environment with respect for people’s busy everyday lives. Apparently, their values are also humane enough to care not only about selling as much as possible but also getting the product to as many people in need as possible.

Apparently, the store is now selling one bottle of sanitizer for 40 DKK ($4.09) while two bottles cost 1,000 DKK ($95)

Image credits: _schuermann

Just like a lot of supermarkets nowadays, they recently experienced people trying to hoard certain products and felt they couldn’t just leave it like that and ought to do something. Therefore, they came up with quite an unconventional pricing idea for the hand sanitizer they are selling after they noticed some people are buying way too much of it.

The store itself took to Facebook to explain their motivation behind this pricing

Image credits: rotundenhellerup

“Dear Customers,
We have a great responsibility to keep the business running, and we can only do that with everyone’s help and understanding. You can help in the following way:
We ask all customers to respect the distance between each other and our co-workers;
Sprinkle (likely sanitize or wash) hands off at the entrance and use gloves;
If you are a family, please allow only one person to purchase the purchases if possible;
There may be times when we limit how many customers we accept in the store at one time. We will keep you informed about any operating changes on Facebook. Take care and thank you for your understanding,” they state in the letter.

Most people loved the idea but some were convinced there were better ways to stop hoarders

Image credits: orak100

Image credits: verdiKat

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Image credits: HansRosvelds

Image credits: JCristoveanu

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Source: Bored Panda

States move to classify grocery workers as emergency personnel

  • Minnesota Governor, Tim Walz, has designated “food distribution workers,” which includes people who work in grocery stores, as emergency workers, CNN reported.  The decision means food retail employees such as clerks and stockers will be covered by an executive order Walz issued last Sunday that directs the state’s school districts to provide care to children of emergency personnel.
  • Vermont is preparing to classify grocery store employees as emergency personnel. The state’s governor, Phil Scott, ordered the state’s schools on Tuesday to provide child care to people in this category, which already includes first responders, law enforcement officials and public health workers.
  • Michigan is also extending emergency status to grocery workers, according to a statement from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union​.

The moves by the three states to classify grocery store employees as emergency personnel comes as the industry is pulling out all the stops in an effort to provide food and other essential goods to the nation’s population as the coronavirus crisis expands. While people in other industries are being told to stay home, grocery workers must report to their jobs.

Grocery stores have been specifically exempted from government orders closing other businesses, such as restaurants and bars, reflecting their critical role currently.​ The promise of child care coverage could be a big boost to the industry’s workers as they, like much of the nation, struggle with school closures while maintaining regular work schedules. It could also help attract more help as food retailers and delivery providers, from Walmart to Shipt, ramp up hiring to try to keep up with crushing demand both in-stores and online — especially if more states make similar designations.

Many grocery stores are taking steps to provide extra support to their workers as they confront risks to their personal safety in the course of performing their jobs. Grocers such as Kroger, Lidl and Walmart will provide up to two weeks of pay to workers who are unable to show up for work because they test positive for the virus or are placed under quarantine. Some stores are also providing higher hourly pay to their employees as they struggle to take care of their personal needs even as they perform tasks to help keep the nation’s population supplied with food.

Source: Grocery Dive

Tracking grocers’ response to the coronavirus

Regional and national grocery chains across the country are responding to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, also known as coronavirus. Each day, retailers are announcing changes to their operations, from reduced hours to paid sick leave. All have implemented rigorous cleaning procedures and many are pushing hiring to keep up with demand.

Whether it’s exclusive hours for vulnerable shoppers, shutting down foodservice and sampling services or limiting product purchases, Grocery Dive will regularly update this tracker with our own coverage as well as aggregated news from major grocers and delivery providers to track the impact on the grocery industry.

Albertsons

Operational changes

Albertsons’ stores are opening one hour later and closing one hour earlier in order to restock shelves, the retailer told USA Today’s Arizona Network. On March 17, the grocer announced all of Albertsons more than 2,200 stores will reserve its stores 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday for vulnerable shoppers, including seniors, pregnant women and immunocompromised. On March 20, the retailer said it is installing Plexiglass in its checkout lanes as a protective barrier between associates and employees. In addition, all self-serve stations like its soup bar, wing bar and salad bar will be shut down.

Aldi

Employee benefits

The retailer noted in a release that it is enhancing its sick leave policy to support its employees and their families but no specifics were given.

Operational changes

ALDI stores across the country will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily starting Monday and some stores may have limited hours, according to the company website. The retailer is also putting limits on products like toilet paper, pasta, flour, rice, paper towels, tissues and hand sanitizer.

Amazon

Employee benefits

Amazon is providing up to two weeks paid sick leave to all employees quarantined or diagnosed with COVID-19, according to Business Insider. The new policy applies to all Amazon employees including hourly and warehouse workers. It is also establishing a relief fund with a $25 million initial contribution to support its contractors, including delivery drivers. Seasonal employees, courier companies and Amazon Flex drivers can apply for grants that would provide two weeks pay if they are diagnosed with COVID-19. The company will give all hourly employees a $2 per hour raise until the end of April, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Costco

Operational changes

Shoppers of the members-only club are only able to purchase two units of products per day including toilet paper and bottled water, according to an email sent to Grocery Dive. The retailer has also stopped handing out food samples.

Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

Operational changes

Starting March 23, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market will enact two dedicated shopping periods for specific members of the community. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., the grocer will be open exclusively for customers over the age of 60, and those with underlying health concerns. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Fresh Thyme will set aside those same hours exclusively for essential healthcare workers and first responders. Fresh Thyme also reduced hours to the general public from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Giant Eagle

Employee benefits

Giant Eagle will give $10 million in bonus payments to employees, the company announced on March 21. Staff at Giant Eagle, Market District, Giant Eagle Pharmacy, and GetGo locations, as well as warehouse workers and those in delivery services will receive the bonuses. Payments will begin immediately and tentatively last until May 2.

Operational changes

Beginning March 23, Giant Eagle will open its stores at 6 a.m., one hour earlier than usual, Monday through Wednesday for shoppers ages 60 and older, differently-abled or immune-compromised. In addition, its gas station and market GetGo has reduced its hours at some locations. Some stores in key locations for the community and first responders will remain open 24/7.

Giant Food

Operational changes

The East Coast grocery chain will limit access to its stores to people over 60 and those with compromised immune systems from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., seven days a week, starting March 20. The retailer is offeringcontact-free delivery through its Giant Delivers program and has paused its grocery order pickup capabilities due to inconsistent supply levels in stores.

H-E-B

Operational changes

Effective March 15, H-E-B has closed its in-store restaurants and limited service to its bakery, floral and deli departments until further notice to shift focus to pickup and delivery operations, according to a company statement. The grocer has waived fees for next-day pickup and pharmacy delivery. In addition, the retailer has reduced store hours at all 400 of its locations, including Central Market, Joe V’s and Mi Tienda. Read more ➔

Hy-Vee

Operational changes

Effective March 20, Hy-Vee will no longer allow its shoppers to use reusable bags due to sanitary reasons. The retailer will also install temporary window panels to provide a layer of protection between customers and cashiers. The panels are currently in place at its Des Moines store, but will be installed at other stores over the next few days. Hy-Vee’s adjusted grocery store hours will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, according to a press release. The company also announced on March 18 that it will dedicate the period between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. each day for those people 60 and older, expectant mothers and anybody with an underlying health condition. Pharmacies in most Hy-Vee stores, including Mainstreet, Dollar Fresh and Hy-Vee Drugstore locations, will open earlier to accommodate these shoppers. Its c-stores remain open for its normal hours. In Hy-Vee’s stores, all dining areas and restaurants are now closed and although foodservice will continue to operate, it will be carryout only. All bars inside its Market Grille locations are also closed. Grocery deliveries through its Aisles Online program will now be shipped by Shipt or DoorDash so in-store employees can focus on pickup orders. It is also suspending all weekly advertising circulars.

Instacart

Employee benefits

Instacart will provide all part-time employees and full-service shoppers diagnosed with COVID-19 or put on mandatory quarantine with up to 14 days of pay, according to a blog post written by the company. The new policy is valid for 30 days from March 9. The company is also allowing part-time shoppers to accrue paid time off, a perk that was previously only offered to full-time shoppers in select states. Sick pay accrual will be backdated from the start of the year.

Operational changes

The company has added new services like doorstep delivery, has worked to speed up shopper checkout times and limited the purchase of certain items. It has also created an advisory panel of health, food safety and disease control experts to help create health and safety guidelines. In order to ease the pressure on its workers, Instacart will not allow shopper ratings to affect their access to orders during the pandemic It will forgive all ratings under five stars.

Kroger

Employee benefits

On March 21, the retailer announced it will provide a one-time bonusfor every hourly associate hired before March 1, amounting to $300 for full-time worker and $150 for every part-time associate. Kroger will also expanded its emergency guidelines to include paid time off for self-isolation and symptoms verified by a health professional. Previously, the policy only included employees diagnosed with COVID-19 and those placed under mandatory quarantine. After two weeks, if associates still can’t return to work, they can receive payment for up to 26 weeks via short-term disability. In addition, Kroger is allowing associates who can and need to work from home the ability to do so. The grocer said it is taking “proactive measures” in the event that more associates need to work remotely.Read more ➔

Operational changes

Kroger has adjusted hours at many of its banner stores, including Kroger, Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, King Soopers, Mariano’s and Ralph’s. It is also allowing associates that can and need to work from home, the ability to do so.

Lidl

Employee benefits

Lidl is encouraging employees to stay home if they are sick, modifying their standard attendance policy to accommodate for unexpected periods of absence without penalty. The discounter has also restructured its benefits so that if employees are diagnosed with COVID-19 or if they work in a store or facility that is included within a government or company-instituted quarantine, Lidl will provide up to two weeks of pay while the employee is away from work.

Meijer

Operational changes

Beginning March 20, Meijer will reduce hours to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., according to a press release. However, its stores and pharmacies will provide dedicated shopping time to the elderly and those with chronic health conditions every Tuesday and Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., and essential service workers and Meijer team members on Mondays and Wednesdays between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.

Natural Grocers

Employee benefits

Natural Grocers is providing its good4u Crew, both full-time and part-time, up to two weeks paid leave if they are diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed under mandatory quarantine by a public health official. After two weeks if the employee isn’t able to return, additional paid leave will be provided for up to 12 weeks via short-term disability. On March 18, the grocery chain also said that it will raise wages for its hourly employees by $1 per hour beginning with the March 23 pay period and give an unspecified “discretionary bonus” to all crewmembers.

Operational changes

All stores will close at 7:35 p.m. In addition, it has decided to shut down many of its services until the end of March, including its in-store nutrition classes and recipes demos, sampling unless its prepackaged and its on-tap kombucha.

Publix

Operational changes

Publix will dedicate the hours of 7 to 8 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday mornings for shoppers 65 years old and over, and will open its pharmacies at 7 a.m. on those days to serve senior customers, according to company announcement. The grocer announced that on March 14 it was closing stores at 8 p.m. — two hours earlier than normal — until further notice. The retailer has applied a two-per-household limit on key items like disinfectant wipes, hand soap, bleach and tissue, according to The Orlando Sentinel. Publix also said it will discontinue store demonstrations and food sampling.

Raley’s

Employee benefits

Raley’s announced March 21 that it will give all hourly team members a reward based on individual hours worked. On average, the bonus will be about $500 per employee and will be distributed April 3.

Operational changes

On March 16, Raley’s introduced a special program for seniors and other at-risk customers that have been quarantined. The retailer will sell these individuals a prepackaged bag of fresh products and pantry items for $20 that can be picked up by a family member, friend or caregiver. It has also implemented a two-item limit on a number of products, including milk, eggs, water, fresh packaged chicken and paper products. Effective March 18, the grocer will adjust its pickup and delivery windows to four different times a day. The company has suspended its self-serve hot food and salad bar and shifted these items to prepackaged on shelves. Read more ➔

Save A Lot

Operational changes

On March 15, Save-a-Lot adjusted its stores’ opening hours, depending on location, and also placed temporary limits on certain products, according to an email sent to Grocery Dive. Grocery Dive reached out for additional details.

Schnucks

Operational changes

Schnucks has changed its hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with the exception of four stores in St. Louis, according to an email sent to Grocery Dive. Its Culinaria store reduced its hours to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will close on the weekends. Its other three stores closed Monday at 10 p.m. and will tentatively reopen March 19 at 6 a.m. The retailer chose to temporarily close these three stores to shift nearly 200 workers to more popular locations.

Shipt

Employee benefits

The company announced in a press release that workers that are diagnosed with coronavirus or placed under mandatory isolation, will continue to receive their average weekly Shipt earnings, including in-app tips, they earned during the four-week period prior to diagnosis or quarantine.

Operational changes

The delivery provider is offering no-contact deliveries or door drops-offs, in which shoppers will leave an order in a secure spot at the door.

Southeastern Grocers

Operational changes

The company announced it will hold designated shopping hours for seniors and high-risk customers between 8 and 9 a.m. Monday through Friday at all stores, including Bi-Lo, Winn-Dixie, Fresco Y Mas and Harveys Supermarket. It will also open pharmacy locations at 8 a.m. each weekday. Effective March 16, the grocery chain announced reduced hours at many of its chains including Bi-Lo, Winn-Dixie and Harveys. All locations will close at 9 p.m. until further notice. Its stores will also no longer operate self-serve deli bars, but will have prepackaged deli available for purchase. Bi-Lo noted its delivery delivery services includes a “drop and leave” program to avoid personal contact.

SpartanNash

Operational changes

SpartanNash and its banner stores will set aside shopping time for people who are elderly, pregnant or immunocompromised. the retailer announced March 18. The reserved hours are 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. In addition, its 24-hour stores will now operate from 6 a.m. to midnight, except for its Metro Family Fare location in Wyoming, Michigan. All stores have shut down sampling, cafe areas and self-serve stations, although prepackaged items are still available. The retailer has extended the hours of its Fast Lane pickup and delivery to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. and is enforcing a limit on the number of cold, flu and sanitary products that can be purchased by each shopper.

Stop & Shop

Operational changes

In addition to reducing its store hours to 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Stop & Shop will hold special early-morning shopping hours for customers ages 60 and over. Senior shoppers will have access to the store from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. The retailer also offers a contact-free delivery option, where drivers can drop off groceries at the customer’s door or building entry. Other changes include the retailer suspending all food sampling programs and limiting popular items like hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, paper towels, toilet tissue and bleach to five per customer. Read more ➔

Target

Employee benefits

The company is making backup care available for all U.S. team members by waiving eligibility requirements, copays and other program details to help with caregiving needs of families. It is also waiving the company’s absenteeism policy and covering up to 14 days of quarantine and illness pay for team members with a confirmed case of COVID-19, as well as continuing to offer standing benefits like paid family leave and free counseling services.

Operational changes

Beginning March 18, Target is adjusting its store hours to close at 9 p.m. each day. The first hour of opening on Wednesdays will be reserved for shoppers that are elderly and have underlying health conditions, the retailer announced in a press release. Checkout lanes and touch screens will be cleaned every 30 minutes, and samples will no longer be distributed. The retailer will also add help to support its Order Pickup and Drive Up service to promote digital shopping and will limit the number of hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and hand and face wipe purchases to six per guest. In addition, it’s closing all Target Cafés, Pizza Huts, Snack Bars, Beverage Bars, Starbucks seating areas and condiment stations in stores. Read more ➔

The Fresh Market

Operational changes

The grocer announced Tuesday that it will implement designated shopper hours for seniors and other individuals at high risk for contracting the coronavirus. These hours are between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., Monday through Friday. All sampling has temporarily stopped.

The Giant Company

Operational changes

Beginning March 19, all Giant’s locations will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., according to the company website. To support those ages 60 and over, all Giant, Martin’s and Giant Heirloom Markets will reserve the first hour of business to seniors. The retailer is placing a limit of two on key categories in its store, including paper goods and disinfected products.

Trader Joe’s

Employee benefits

Trader Joe’s is reimbursing sick workers for their time off. The company sent out an internal memo encouraging employees that aren’t feeling well to stay home until they are symptom-free for at least 24 hours. The policy is in place through April 15. Read more ➔

Operational changes

Trader Joe’s stores will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. beginning March 16, the company noted in a release. The retailer has also stopped serving samples at its demo stations.

UNFI

Operational changes

As of March 19, wholesaler UNFI will begin giving full-time and part-time labor associates and drivers a Temporary State of Emergency Bonus of $2 per hour in addition to their hourly and overtime pay until March 31. The company will also provide employees diagnosed with COVID-19 14 additional days of paid sick leave, as well as if a facility is closed.

Walmart

Employee benefits

The retailer will waive its attendance occurrence policy through the end of April if an associate doesn’t feel comfortable coming to work. If a worker is diagnosed with COVID-19 or has been quarantined, Walmart will provide the employee with two weeks of pay. After two weeks, additional pay replacement can be provided for up to 26 weeks for both full-time and part-time workers. On March 18, the retailer announced plans to pay its U.S. hourly employees special cash bonuses. The bonus will be $300 for full-time workers and $150 for part-time employees. It will also accelerate its next scheduled quarterly bonus a month early so associates get more cash in hand. Read more ➔

Operational changes

Walmart’s U.S. stores have adjusted their hours to 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m, with stores that open after 7 a.m. maintaining their regular start time, the retailers announced on its site. Walmart has shut down its auto care centers and shifted those employees to store cleaning and stocking. The company has also placed limits on certain essential items, like milk, eggs, baby food, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizers. From March 24 through April 28, Walmart customers 60 and older will have exclusive access to stores every Tuesday one hour before opening. The retailer’s pharmacies and vision centers will also be open during that time. Walmart also plans to add 150,000 store associates. The roles will be temporary, but could eventually become permanent.

Wegmans

Operational changes

Wegmans has temporarily changed its store hours to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The retailer has closed all of its in-store Pub restaurants and Market Cafe seating areas, discontinued catering temporarily and is offering limited selections at its self-service food bars. The grocer has restricted the use of reusable cups to the self-serve coffee bar and increased signage to provide reusable bag cleaning instructions. The grocer also implemented a two-item purchase limit on many products including over the counter medications, sanitizers, cleaning supplies, paper products, meats, produce, packaged entrees, canned food and pasta. Read more ➔

Weis Markets

Operational changes

All stores will adjust hours to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Weis has also temporarily shut down its Weis 2 Go pickup and delivery service due to high demand, a company spokesperson told Penn Live, though shoppers can continue getting orders filled through Shipt.

Whole Foods

Operational changes

Whole Foods announced it will close stores two hours early, but will remain open for pickup orders and to fulfill Prime delivery orders in stores that offer the services. All stores will reserve the first hour of operations to service shoppers 60 and older. It will also temporarily shut down all food bars and self-serve stations. All in-store restaurants will offer takeout service only, and indoor and outdoor seating will be closed.

Source: Grocery Dive

On the coronavirus front lines: Grocery workers ‘vulnerable’ as panicked shoppers crowd stores

They can’t work from home.

They spend hours a day within a few feet of a never-ending line of strangers, despite public health guidelines on social distancing.

And rather than their work slowing down, it has speeded up.

America’s grocery store workers are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, helping to keep the nation’s 330 million residents alive and fed in an uncertain and frightening time.

The suddenly crucial role of grocery store employees prompted the states of Minnesota and Vermont to reclassify them as essential emergency workers, affording them benefits often similar to health care providers and first responders.

As panicked shoppers snap up toilet paper and dash for express lanes, overburdened grocery employees are clocking in at all hours to keep up with pandemic-driven demand.

Recent days have been “unlike anything I’ve ever seen at work, as “stockers were getting pushed out of the way for toilet paper” and customers were “fighting over beans,” Journey Carnahan, who works at H-E-B Grocery in central Texas, told NBC News.

Despite such hand-to-hand combat in the aisles, Carnahan praised his bosses for protecting employees by limiting store hours and meticulously cleaning every surface possible.

“We have multiple bottles of cleaning spray to wipe down our check stands. The company installed sneeze guards on the check stands, as well as handing out bottles of hand sanitizer,” he said.

“I personally wash my hands every chance I get, as well as putting on hand sanitizer so much my hands are dry and cracking by the end of my shift,” Carnahan said.

The tension felt by consumers in the checkout line is rubbing off on some employees.

“You can feel how stressed out everyone else is,” Chloe Gordon, 22, an employee of Target in, McKinney, Texas, told NBC News. “I just feel stressed out for others.”

Grocery store workers, unlike health care providers, are not on the whole being given masks or other protective gear to wear on the job.

But some localities are passing rules to protect both store employees and their customers.

The Los Angeles City Council this week enacted measures that mandate markets, as well as drug stores and food-delivery businesses, to provide “all necessary sanitary cleaners,” give workers time to frequently wash their hands, and provide any necessary protective wear.

“These are workers that are on the front lines of this public health emergency, and we have to make sure they have the protections they need throughout their shifts,” City Councilman Curren Price said.

“The goal of the package is for the safety and protection of the employees and customers.”

Some grocery store workers said they understand the risks.

A cashier at Publix in central Florida said his company is doing all it can to keep the store clean, but that he is still bringing in his own sanitizer. He is rubbing his hands on it after every single transaction “as a precaution for myself and my family.”

“Hands are getting pretty rough, but I want to be safe,” he told NBC News on Friday.

The necessity of such employees and the weight of their workload is getting recognized by some employers.

Target, for example, announced Friday that it was boosting pay for its store employees by $2 an hour until at least May 2.

“We continue to experience incredible demand across our business, and Target’s ability to help our guests in this unprecedented time would not be possible without the strength of our team,” Target CEO Brian Cornell said in a statement. “I am proud and humbled by the dedication and humanity they show to our guests every day.”

And against the backdrop of massive businesses closures due to the pandemic, one of the few places left for people to go is the supermarkets across all of urban, suburban and rural America.

“You can’t have a greater aggregate of folks in one place than in market right now,” said Los Angeles-based UFCW Local 770 President John Grant. “The markets are holding communities together.”

That local represents 20,000 grocery workers in several counties in California, and Grant said contracts have no prohibition against managers scheduling for overtime, which he said is rampant right now.

But even if there were such restrictions, Grant said his members are regularly signing up for 12-hour shifts and 10-day-long runs – motivated by the promise of overtime pay and a desire to serve loyal customers.

“I’m filled with so much respect for the sacrifice and heroism, there’s almost no one as vulnerable or exposed to the virus,” said Grant, pointing out that every supermarket food item has untold number of hands on it through the wholesale and retail process.

The union officials said he reminds members: “Take care of yourself. If you have reason to believe there’s a danger to yourself or a loved one, tell the store manager.”

As grocery employees toil, some of their supermarket bosses can’t sign up reinforcements fast enough.

The “for hire” signs and expanded schedules seem to be everywhere: Between Louisville and Los Angeles, from Seattle to St. Louis to San Francisco.

“And they’re not just hiring for the stores, we’re talking about all along the lines of distribution – the warehouses, the wholesalers, the truck drivers,” said Joseph Tarnowski, vice president of ECRM, a firm that analyzes retail industry data.

“The challenge here is the pace that they need them. It’s just been so sudden. We went from zero to ‘We need 20 people here, 20 people there,’ and of course in numbers much larger.”

Source: NBC News

Reusable bag policy changes coming to grocery stores

Some grocery stores are changing their reusable bag policy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Save-On-Foods will temporarily suspend bottle returns and the use of reusable bags in stores starting on Friday.

The decision, according to a release sent Thursday evening, was made as a precaution.

“Both our team members and customers have expressed concern about bottle returns and in using reusable bags at this time and we want to do everything we can to put them at ease,” said Save-On-Foods president Darrell Jones in a statement. “The health and safety of our team members and customers is our number one priority and we’ll continue to do what’s best for them as this unprecedented situation evolves.”

The decision will be in place until further notice, Jones says, adding the company will not be charging shoppers for its plastic shopping bags.

Save-On-Foods has also limited shopping hours from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. at all 180 stores in Western Canada. The grocery store has dedicated the hour of 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. for seniors and vulnerable people to shop.

The company is also encouraging its customers to shop normally and leave the delivery service for people who can’t get to the store.

Loblaw’s, the parent company of Shopper’s Drug Mart, No Frills and Real Canadian Superstore, is also making changes to its reusable bag policy

In a message sent out to PC Optimum Points Members, the company says they will be removing their fee for plastic grocery bags at stores, and are asking customers to limit the use of reusable bags. They add customers who bring reusable bags will have to bag their items themselves.

Loblaw’s is changing hours at all supermarkets, opening from 7 a.m. -8 p.m. daily. The first hour will be dedicated to seniors and people with disabilities.

The company will be limit the number of customers allowed in their stores to promote social distancing.

Hours will also be reduced at Shopper’s Drug Mart stores across Canada, though the company asks you to call your store directly to find out what the hours are.

Source: CTV News