As of April, at least 30 grocery store workers across the country have died, with thousands more infected.
Fred Meyer and QFC employees protested in Burien and Bellingham, and outside other Kroger-owned stores up and down the West Coast on Friday.
“What do we want? Hero pay! When do we want it? Now!” the group chanted.
Kroger, the parent company of those stores, started hazard pay – or what they called a “hero bonus" on March 29.
Workers got an extra $2 an hour. But now it’s getting rid of that extra pay, starting Sunday.
“I was angry, I felt like Kroger didn’t really respect any of its workers. They keep saying we’re essential but their actions tell a completely different story,” said Sherman Jenne, an employee at the Burien Fred Meyer.
Kroger didn’t respond to KIRO 7’s request for comment. But on its website Friday afternoon, the company announced it will be giving employees a one-time “Thank You Pay” of $400 for full -time workers (or $200 for part -time workers).
That’s about five weeks’ worth of the “hero bonus.”
The union, United Food and Commercial Workers, or UWFC21 in the Seattle area, is calling that a win.
“Kroger seems to have heard us, but it is not good enough. Kroger’s decision today shows that we can have an impact, and that it is important for workers, communities and unions to protest against decisions that harm workers,” said UWFC21 in a statement.
The union is also calling on Kroger to do more to improve safety for employees inside stores.
“We think the limits they’ve placed are not good enough. Workers need protection,” said Sarah Cherin, chief of staff for UWFC21.
Employees said during the protest that the store is frequently so busy, distancing measures are not followed.
“We were actually so packed, the lines for all the check stands were going all the way down the aisle,” said Sherman Jenne, an employee at the Burien Fred Meyer.
When KIRO 7 went inside, check out lines went down the entire lengths of aisles, to the center of the store.
Employees say they don’t feel safe.
“I consistently feel worried, not just for myself, but for my coworkers, even for customers,” said Maria Rouse-Williams, another employee at the Burien Fred Meyer.
“We have a lot of people walking in without masks,” said Leatha Black, a QFC employee at the protest.
Employees are also asking Kroger to mandate that customers wear masks at their stores like some other businesses have, and to enforce limits on capacity.
“I have to go home to my daughter and I would like to go home healthy,” Black said.
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