SPOKANE, Wash. — A union representing more than 100,000 grocery store workers is asking Kroger, the company that owns Fred Meyer, to continue paying its hourly "Hero Bonus" during the coronavirus pandemic.
Fred Meyer has locations across the northwest, including in eastern Washington and North Idaho.
Jeffery Temple, a spokesperson for Fred Meyer, wrote in a statement on Friday that the temporary Hero Bonus is scheduled to end in mid-May.
The statement reads in part:
"In the coming months, we know that our associates’ needs will continue to evolve and change as our country recovers. Our commitment is that we will continue to listen and be responsive, empowering us to make decisions that advance the needs of our associates, customers, communities and business. We continuously evaluate employee compensation and benefits packages. Our average hourly wage is $15 and with benefits factored in, like health care, the hourly wage is over $20."
Fred Meyer first announced the "Hero Bonus" of an extra $2/hour in early April. Representatives said hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center associates would receive the bonus.
In a statement released on Friday, local branches of the UFCW union representing California, Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Wyoming called on Kroger to maintain the bonuses, improve story safety practices, and provide COVID-19 testing to all employees.
Testing is available for associates based on their symptoms and medical need, Temple said. Workers who are most directly affected by the virus or experiencing related symptoms have been provided with emergency leave or paid time off, he added.
Fred Meyer has also instituted other safety measures throughout the store, including installing plexiglass partitions on check stands, Starbucks kiosks and the pharmacy counter and providing masks for employees.
"We are committed to the continued support of our associates’ safety and mental well-being, and we’ll continue our ongoing discussions on these critical aspects with the UFCW," Temple said.
Union representatives said in a statement that there has been an "uptick in cases of infection of COVID-19" in its members.
“On May 1, 2020 I received notification from Kroger that the 'Hero Bonus' premium, which adds $2.00 per hour premium, is expected to end May 16th, 2020," said UFCW Local 1439 President Eric Renner in a prepared statement. "Kroger acknowledges that masks and social distancing will continue past the expiration of the premium. In summary the Company understands that the risk is still there to contract COVID-19, sales have increased immensely but the 'Hero Bonus' that our Frontline Workers have received for their sacrifice is expected to expire."
"I agree with Kroger that our Frontline Workers are Heroes, but I disagree that they will stop being Heroes on May 16th. This is extremely disappointing to our members and our community," he added.