Omicron is pushing grocery workers to the brink, but they need to make a living

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

Now, Omicron’s rapid spread is putting new pressures on already exhausted essential workers after nearly two years of work during a deadly pandemic. But, unlike millions of office workers, they cannot stay at home and earn a living.

Employment at the store where Dancy works is at its worst level since the pandemic, even lower than it was during the first wave in March 2020, said a 62-year-old store host at the local Food and Trade Workers Union. He added that employees have resigned in recent months and have not been replaced by management. The store had to close early on some days due to staffing restrictions.

The latest wave of workers calling out is adding additional responsibilities to Dancy and the staff who have to keep shelves full, help customers and complete other tasks. Some customers also shop without a mask, which makes him feel unsafe.

“Every day was a struggle,” Dancy said. “I feel like I’m exhausting myself. I’m constantly tired.”

Two weeks ago, he was working on a busy Sunday when the store was understaffed. This was the first time in 30 years that I thought I didn’t know more than I could do and wanted to do it. “

The official spokesperson for the Qatar Financial Center that he owns Kroger (K), he said in an email that the chain is offering workers comprehensive benefit packages, including an average hourly wage of $18.72. The Qatar Financial Center, which has about 60 stores, is also actively recruiting. The Qatar Financial Center said it was working closely with health officials to create a safe working and shopping environment and slow the spread of Covid-19.

I can’t stay at home

The demographics of the more than 30 million essential frontline workers are very different from those who can work remotely.

About 29% of white workers are able to work from home, according to a 2020 study by the Economic Policy Institute. But fewer than one in five black workers and about one in six Hispanic workers can work from home.
Disproportionately facing industries are employed by women and people of color, and they are over-represented in many jobs within those industries, according to a 2020 Center for Economic and Policy Research report.

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

The latest wave of Covid-19 has made many workers sick while others are calling because their childcare plans are in flux as some schools are closed again. Some employees are staying at home because they fear contracting the virus while working.
Face recruitment dynasties, retailers such as Messi (M) shorten their working hours.
Retail and grocery store workers have faced safety challenges and risks throughout the pandemic — they are underpaid and often work for companies that do not have strong paid sick leave policies or benefits. They have also dealt with angry and sometimes violent customers who refuse to wear masks, shoplifting and store shootings.
These factors have contributed to the millions of job vacancies in the industry as well as to the nationwide labor shortage.
Despite Omicron’s rapid spread, most major retail chains have not re-implemented many of the steps they took earlier in the pandemic, such as offering hazard pay to workers or requiring customers to wear masks.

They are reluctant to impose mandates, nor have they asked for frontline workers to be vaccinated. Industry groups sued to block the Biden administration’s authorization of the vaccine to large employers. Instead, companies offer cash bonuses and other incentives to encourage workers to get vaccinated.

And while many companies are raising wages, inflation has wiped out at least half of average wage earnings for frontline workers, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution last month.

“Very few people make enough money just to get by,” the researchers said.

Maria Molina, who works at a Target store in Lynchburg, Virginia, which caters to online customer orders and curbside delivery, said she is struggling to keep up as Omicron reduces staffing levels.

“We still get a large number of applications every day. It’s even harder because we don’t have a lot of people to help us,” said Molina, a member of the Target Workers Unite.

She said morale is low in the store, and her co-workers are frustrated and exhausted. She believes that the objective should be to give employees a hazard pay to reward them for working under difficult conditions.

a targeting (TGT) The spokesperson said in an email that the company invested $1 billion last year in its employees, including wage increases and bonuses. Target also said it recently exceeded its goal of hiring 100,000 temporary holiday workers and 30,000 permanent supply chain workers.

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

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

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