Published on: February 5, 2021
In our pandemic coverage yesterday, I expressed a certain surprise at how many states are not yet vaccinating their teachers, which the CDC says is largely because the spread of the coronavirus generally is not related to schools. While this surprised me, I said that if I'm going to say I trust the science, that has to include when it is inconvenient to do so.
Prompting MNB reader Sarah Hamaker to write:
As a mom of five, school-age kids living in Fairfax, Va., I have a lot of skin in the game of getting kids back in school. Just this week, Fairfax County Public Schools announced--finally--they would be returning kids to school after a protracted fight with the teachers' association, which first mandated all teachers and staff be vaccinated before a return to school, then moved the goal posts to includes all kids being vaccinated (not having a vaccine approved for kids apparently wasn't considered) and ridiculously low county-wide COVID infection rates. This despite the science, which apparently the teachers' union and school board only paid attention to when it suited their purposes to keep schools closed.
This school year has been a disaster for so many kids, mine included. My high school senior and junior have struggled with online schooling and they are overall good students who show up to class and do their work. I pulled my two middle school boys out to homeschool this year, as I'd rather teach them (in between my work at home) than monitor their virtual schooling. My preschool foster daughter, in the local school system's preK program for autism, was back in school for most of the fall (wearing her mask and singing about staying in her bubble) without a single incident of COVID. Now she's been virtual schooling since the Christmas, and you can imagine how well that goes. And don't get me started on all the kids who don't show up to class, those for whom virtual schooling is impossible given their disabilities or diagnoses, plus all the kids who are suffering in unsafe environments no one knows about because they're not physically in school.
So I appreciate your being willing to say you believe/support what the science is saying related to kids/COVID being low risk because I know it's not easy to believe something that goes against what we think we know. But our kids need us to pay attention to the science--not just when it supports our own preconceived notions but when it doesn't.
That's a good point - accepting the science is also about modeling smart behavior to our kids.
It was noted here yesterday that as of the morning, we had 27,027,430 cases of the coronavirus in the US, and that at least 26.8 million people had received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S.
One MNB reader observed:
It seems that later today, more people will have received at least one vaccination dose than the total confirmed cases of COVID. That is got to be good news….
Agreed. It is a beginning.
Regarding the debate about government-mandated hazard pay for grocery workers, one MNB reader wrote:
The Hazard Pay legislation has the right sentiment, but the execution is terrible. Many municipal boards are agreeing in principle to the raises, then having the local officials write the ordinance. In Long Beach the ordinance has been written such that only retailers that sell at least 70% of items that are “traditional groceries” are subject to this Hazard Pay increase. So Walmart, Target, Costco and Amazon are not subject to the Hazard Pay increase, but independent retailers like Superior, Northgate, Stater Brothers and others must bear this cost increase.
Every independent knows that compete is a verb – but we expect the opportunity to compete on a fair field.
From another reader:
This is more government overreach. There is already collective bargaining in place with the UFCW and grocery retailers. The grocery retailers have on their own already supplemented the clerk pay with pandemic supplemental pay.
While there’s certainly a very good argument for additional compensation for grocery store employees, there’s another point that I think it’s the most important one for why retailers are opposed.
While this wouldn’t be my preference, a like nationwide compensation would be a more equitable way to impose it. If you’re a regional operator, and you are mandated to raise costs to the level of having negative profit (which $4 per hr will do) and your competitor, due to city, county, state lines is not, you are in a difficult spot. You have little choice but to raise prices. The $4 per hr is a much higher number than profits, and there are no other expenses or combinations of that could bring you back to profitability other than charging more. Price is the number one driver for changing market share in our business. And by raising prices in the range of 2% or more would be very noticeable and market changing.
Trader Joe’s has agreed to pay $4, although they will offset a portion by eliminating a raise AND will discontinue the $4 when their employee base is eligible for vaccination (which is another story... they should be moved up in the line).
TJ’s is unique, in that they have by far the largest percentage of private label sales in the industry. Their products cannot be accurately compared to like products in the major choices for consumers, and their prices are low to begin with. A 2% jump in price is not as visible when you are selling Tide soap, Coke, and Bounty towels.
In addition, Seattle as example has one Costco, one Albertsons, and other publicly traded companies that have less stores in the city than the local stores.
It’s the local stores that are going to be hurt most of all. And that’s the problem.
And this other comment from an MNB reader:
I know this view will be contrary to many responses, but what is so hazardous about running a register, gathering carts, stocking shelves, receiving at the back door? You have masks. The customers have masks. You have shields. You are constantly wiping down everything. And you can wear gloves. Absolutely no contact with the general public, is very easy to accomplish. But hey, I guess in todays society we are very willing and conditioned to getting extra for just showing up. I just don’t see it.
Yesterday we took note of a Woodland Daily Democrat report that supermarket chain Raley's is working with AgStart, which mentors and nurtures agriculture and food-tech startup companies, to create the Raley’s Food Lab at The Lab@AgStart.
I love this … and one MNB reader concurred:
I love this too! Raley’s owner Mike Teel is known for his for his idealism and enthusiasm. This is only the latest in a long line of forward-thinking initiatives. One of my favorites was Raley’s Food For Families Urban Farm in West Sacramento. It was a small operation, but demonstrated that food retailers can lead in addressing food insecurity, wellness and sustainable food production.
Finally … yesterday we got a lot of email responding to the conversation between Michael Sansolo and me about who - in addition to Sam Walton and Jeff Bezos - belongs on a retailing Mount Rushmore. We continue to go through the responses, are happy to entertain additional nominations, and will be beck with a response next week.
Thanks for playing!