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Kroger announced on Friday that it will pay $100 to its employees who get the Covid-19 vaccine.

According to the announcement, "The one-time $100 vaccine payment will be offered to all associates who receive the full manufacturer-recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and present appropriate proof of vaccination to their human resources representative. Associates who cannot receive the vaccine due to medical or religious reasons will have the option of completing an educational health and safety course to receive the payment."

Kroger also said on Friday that "in addition to the new vaccine payment, the company also announced an additional $50 million investment to thank and reward associates across its 35-state footprint, including a $100 store credit and 1,000 fuel points for hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center associates. Both rewards will be loaded to associates’ loyalty cards on Thursday, Feb. 11."

KC's View:

Kroger listed all the things it has done four its front line employees at the end of the press release, which almost certainly exhibits a certain sensitivity to the bad publicity it has been getting in some quarters for closing two California stores because of government-mandated hazard pay there.

The supermarket industry in general has to be aware that there is going to be a bright spotlight on its practices.  The New York Times writes this morning about how "the race to distribute vaccines and the emergence of more contagious variants of Covid-19 have put a renewed spotlight on the plight of grocery workers in the United States. The industry has boomed in the past year as Americans have stayed home and avoided restaurants. But in most cases, that has not translated into extra pay for its workers. After Long Beach, Calif., mandated hazard pay for grocery workers, the grocery giant Kroger responded last week by saying it would close two locations.

"And now, even as experts warn people to minimize time spent in grocery stores because of new coronavirus variants, the New York Times found only 13 states that had started specifically vaccinating those workers."

A study by the Brookings Institution, which has researched retailers’ pay during the pandemic, found that "while 13 of the largest retail and grocery companies in the United States earned $17.7 billion more in the first three quarters of 2020 than they did a year earlier, most stopped offering extra compensation to their associates in the early summer. At the same time, some opted to buy back shares and gave big sums to executives."

I've been saying this from the beginning.  It was all well and good for companies to refer to their employees as "essential."  But the real question is whether they treated their front line employees as essential before the pandemic, and how they would address their essential-ness once the pandemic has subsided.