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Why Kroger Is in Talks With Unions About Its Hourly Hero Bonus

By Rhian Hunt – May 11, 2020 at 6:59PM

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The unions are seeking public support under the hashtag #EssentialHeroes.

As Kroger's (KR -1.41%) $2 hourly bonus to its workers nears its end, a pair of unions have opened negotiations with the grocery and drugstore chain in a bid to prolong the extra pay past its scheduled May 17 ending date. At this point, Kroger has already extended the bonus twice, in addition to paying a cash bonus and providing other perks to workers who stayed on the job as COVID-19 sweeps the nation.

The negotiations come just days after a 60-year-old Kroger worker, James Andres of Westland, Michigan, died of the coronavirus after spending a month in the hospital, moving in and out of the intensive care unit.

A supermarket worker in a mask.

Image source: Getty Images.

Kroger originally intended the $2-per-hour "hero bonus" to continue only through April 17. The extra pay thanked critical front-line workers for remaining on the job. The grocery chain then extended the bonus period twice, first to May 2, then to May 17. The company also paid part-time workers $150 and full-timers $300 as a one-time cash bonus back in April.

The Teamsters and United Food and Commercial Workers, or UFCW, are now calling on Kroger to keep paying the $2 hourly bonus, citing the continued high risk of coronavirus infection. UFCW Local 7 president Kim Cordova said that with states reopening, "grocery workers' jobs become more dangerous as customer traffic increases" and added, "We're already seeing a startling uptick in the number of essential grocery workers testing positive for COVID-19."

Kroger responded to the unions by saying it is "committed to the continued support of our associates' safety and mental well-being" and will "continue our ongoing discussions on these critical aspects with the UFCW."

Rhian Hunt has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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