The grocery cashier ringing you up is not OK

Dancy is a front-end supervisor who oversees the store’s cash registers, self-checkout kiosks, customer service, and liquor departments. At the end of December, he worked 11 consecutive days due to staff shortages caused by the spread of the highly contagious variant of Covid-19.

Now, the rapid spread of Omicron puts new pressure on essential workers already exhausted after nearly two years of work during a deadly pandemic. But, unlike millions of office workers, they can’t stay home and make a living.

Staff at the store where Dancy works are at their worst since the pandemic, even below the first wave in March 2020, said the 62-year-old shop steward from the local United Food and Commercial Workers union. Employees have resigned in recent months and management has not replaced them, he added. The store had to close early on certain days due to staff constraints.

The latest wave of workers calling in sick adds additional responsibilities to Dancy and the employees who must stock shelves, help customers and complete other tasks. Some customers also shop without a mask, which puts them at risk.

“Every day has been a struggle,” said Dancy. “I feel like I’m overworking. I’m constantly tired.”

Two weeks ago he was working on a crowded Sunday when the store was understaffed. It was “the first time in 30 years that I was like ‘I don’t know very long, I can and I want to do this.'”

A spokesperson for QFC, who belongs to Kroger (KR), said in an email that the channel offers workers full benefits, including an average hourly wage of $ 18.72. QFC, with around sixty stores, is also actively recruiting. QFC said it is working closely with health officials to create a safe working and shopping environment and to slow the spread of Covid-19.

I can’t stay at home

The demographics of the more than 30 million essential frontline workers differ significantly from those who may work remotely.

About 29% of white workers can work from home, according to a 2020 Economic Policy Institute study. But less than one in five black workers and about one in six Hispanic workers can work from home.
Frontline industries are disproportionately made up of women and people of color, and they are overrepresented in many jobs within these industries, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research report in 2020.

For example, women, who make up 47.4% of the country’s total workforce, make up 50.5% of the nearly seven million grocery store workers. Blacks make up 11.9% of the workforce, but make up 14.2% of grocery store employees.

The latest wave of Covid-19 has caused the illness of many workers while others are calling because their childcare plans are changing as some schools are closing again. And some employees stay home because of fear of catching the virus at work.
Faced with staff shortages, retailers such as Macy’s (M) have shortened their opening hours.
Retail and grocery store workers have faced challenges and safety risks throughout the pandemic – they are paid low wages and often work for companies without strong employee policies or benefits. paid sick leave. They have also dealt with angry and sometimes violent customers who refuse to wear masks, shoplifting and shootings in stores.
These factors have contributed to millions of unfilled jobs in the industry as well as a nationwide labor shortage.
Despite Omicron’s rapid spread, most major retail chains have failed to reinstate many of the measures they took earlier in the pandemic, such as offering a risk premium to workers or forcing customers to wear masks.

Reluctant to impose mandates, they also failed to force frontline workers to be vaccinated. Industry groups have filed a lawsuit to block the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for large employers. Rather, companies offer cash bonuses and other incentives to encourage workers to get vaccinated.

And although many companies have raised wages, inflation has erased at least half of the average wage gains for frontline workers, according to an analysis last month by the Brookings Institute.

“Too few are making enough money just to get by,” the researchers said.

Mariah Molina, who works at a Target store in Lynchburg, Va., Fills customers’ online delivery and curbside pickup orders, said she struggled to keep up as Omicron decimates levels of staff.

“We still get a lot of orders every day. It’s harder because we don’t have that many people to help us,” said Molina, a member of the workers’ advocacy group Target Workers Unite.

Morale is low at the store, she said, and her colleagues are frustrated and overworked. She thinks Target should pay employees a risk premium to reward them for working under difficult conditions.

A Target (TGT) The spokesperson said in an email that the company invested $ 1 billion last year in its staff, including increased wages and bonuses. Target also said it recently exceeded its goal of hiring 100,000 temporary vacation workers and 30,000 permanent supply chain workers.

After working at Target since the start of the pandemic, Molina began looking for jobs outside of the retail and service industries.

“It would be a lot less stressful and a lot less physically demanding,” she said.


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