‘We Are Forgotten’: Grocery Employees Hope for Greater Pay and Vaccinations

HAC, the Oklahoma company that owns Cash Saver and Homeland, is employee owned. Its managing director, Marc Jones, said last year’s initial hero pay was “a reflection of the crowd in our stores, and as that wave subsided, it seemed like the time to end it.” It’s been a huge expense for the company, which has around 80 stores, 3,400 employees, and competes with Walmart.

Even with a better year than usual, groceries are “a particularly profitable” business, Jones said. By March he said, “It was a big question if the local grocery store would even survive and if everyone would go online.”

Ms. Sockwell said she was more concerned about the vaccination delay for food workers, especially given that her colleagues tended to work every hour they could, at the minimum wage.

“Most of my employees barely have a high school diploma,” said Ms. Sockwell, whose local UFCW unit tried to get Oklahoma officials to prioritize vaccination for food workers. “They want to do whatever they can to keep food and electricity in their home.”

She added, “We are simple workers who don’t need bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but we’re still human.”

At least 13 states in at least some counties have approved some grocery store employees for the Covid-19 vaccine. They are Alabama, Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wyoming.

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