Kroger mentioned it will close two Seattle stores after native officers there imposed a compulsory $4-per-hour elevate as hazard pay through the COVID-19 pandemic for big grocery operators.
The Cincinnati-based grocer mentioned the two QFC Food Centers have been “underperforming,” however the choice to close them down was sped up by the brand new mandate it labeled as “misguided.”
Kroger’s largest union, in the meantime, blasted the transfer calling it an try to “intimidate” municipal leaders.
QFC is a subsidiary of Kroger. The firm mentioned the stores would go darkish after April 24.
Kroger famous the ordinance did not apply to smaller grocers or different non-supermarket frontline employees (similar to metropolis employees) going through the identical publicity to COVID-19.
“Seattle City Council’s misguided mandate targets one trade and never solely oversteps our collective bargaining rights, however it altogether exempts a number of non-union rivals,” Kroger said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the irreparable hurt that can come to employees and our Seattle group is a direct results of the City’s try to choose winners and losers amongst important companies and employees.”
The closures come two weeks after Kroger announced it would close two other stores in Southern California after native officers there additionally imposed necessary hazard pay.
Kroger operates several regional supermarket chains in 35 states, including Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, Ralphs, Mariano’s, Fry’s, Smith’s, King Soopers and QFC. The company has nearly 2,800 stores and employs nearly 500,000 workers.
The union that represents thousands of Kroger’s frontline workers blasted the grocer’s decision, applying its own labels: “retaliation” and “inexcusable.”
“Kroger has literally made billions in pandemic profits off the sacrifices of grocery workers in Seattle and across the country,” United Food and Commercial Workers International President Marc Perrone mentioned in a press release. “Instead of doing what is right… Kroger is once again trying to intimidate local and national elected leaders.”
The union famous not less than 137 grocery employees it represents at Kroger and different retailers have died through the pandemic and greater than 30,100 grocery employees have been contaminated or uncovered to the coronavirus.
“Threatening frontline workers with ruthless job cuts and endangering the community’s access to food in the middle of a public health crisis is inexcusable,” Perrone added.
The union mentioned Kroger is including to that hurt by closing stores in communities that want entry to meals within the time of a nationwide disaster. It additionally mentioned the corporate ought to present employees with N95 masks to higher defend its folks.
Kroger countered it has already spent $1.5 billion on employee bonus pay and added security measures to defend them. It famous the additional pay mandates elevated the associated fee to function native stores by 20% to 30% in an trade infamous for its “razor-thin” revenue margins.
Early this month, Kroger announced it would pay workers a $100 one-time bonus if they got vaccinated against COVID-19 and would additionally pay one other one-time $100 bonus within the type of retailer credit score.
Follow reporter Alexander Coolidge on Twitter: @alexcoolidge.