business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times this morning reports that "many retailers across the United States have quietly stopped providing their workers with the pay raises they had dispensed at the start of the pandemic, despite surging virus numbers in many states," arguing that "the panic-buying that flooded stores during the early weeks of the crisis has waned."

The Times goes on:

"Stop & Shop is the latest retailer to make such a move, ending a 10 percent pay raise it gave its 56,000 employees this spring to acknowledge that their work was essential and appreciated. Amazon, Kroger and Albertsons have also ended pandemic hourly pay raises, though some of them continue to give out bonuses. ShopRite said it planned to end its $2-an-hour raise early next month.

"But while hoarding may be over, infection remains a very real threat, especially in environments like retail stores, where even with masks and social-distancing measures workers say they still feel vulnerable.

"As dozens of states endure record levels of new cases, many employees say the job of the essential retail worker has actually become even more difficult than at the start of the health crisis."

KC's View:

One emerging problem is that the wearing - or not wearing - of masks has become a political statement for some rather than an expression of a) compassion, b) sensitivity to the notion that one should try not to infect others, c) an expression of patriotism, in the sense that a mask can help the nation recover from the pandemic in a responsible way, and d) basic common sense.  But with the politicization has come an increasing number of confrontations in stores that have put employees at risk.

I always thought that bonuses, rather than raises, were the way to go, but I also believe that by reducing retail workers' wages at this time could end up looking like a far more accurate statement about how they are viewed by management than the bumps in pay that they received.  I also wonder how many c-level executives will see some very nice bonuses this year, earned on the backs of employees putting themselves at risk every day.

One of the unstated arguments is that as unemployment goes up, it is easier to get employees, and you don't have to pay bonuses.  Which strikes me as deeply cynical.