Still Essential, Grocery Workers Are Reporting a New Low in Morale

Though briefly celebrated as heroes of the pandemic, essential grocery store workers are now contending with inhumane treatment from both customers and bosses, the Washington Post reports.

Being that the grocery stores are among the few service sectors that haven’t suffered mass closures and job loss, workers say that owners and managers have the upper hand and are using the threat of unemployment to pressure lower level employees into dangerous situations, like working while ill. Angel Manners, a union steward at a Meijer grocer in Kentucky, tells WaPo, “Managers are making decisions on their own, saying ‘You have a cough but you’ll be okay. You don’t want to say ‘no’ because you’ll lose your job.”

The end of hazard pay has left employees — some of whom are the sole breadwinners for their families, as unemployment ravages other industries — in dire straits. Additionally, they say that customers have become increasingly rude, with one worker telling WaPo, “They don’t even treat us like humans anymore.” Workers are even facing outright harassment and violence from patrons, many of them hoping to make a scene, who refuse to follow store or state mandates and wear masks.

The Washington Post reports that “the nation’s 2.7 million grocery workers make, on average, $13.20 an hour, or about $27,000 a year” and that “at least 130 U.S. grocery workers have died, and more than 8,200 have tested positive for COVID-19 since late March.”

The low pay and health risks have brought worker morale to a new low, with one Kroeger employee saying, “The pressure is wearing away at us in great chunks.”


  • Casual dining restaurants — like Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse, and the Cheesecake Factory — are the least likely chains to survive the pandemic. [USA Today]
  • The rush to dine out again has unsurprisingly led to resurgences of the new coronavirus across the states. [NYT]
  • In more coronavirus news (you thought there was any other kind?), the virus has been found on imported frozen food packaging in three Chinese cities. [NBC News]
  • Meanwhile, China has kickstarted a national Clean Plate campaign to combat food waste. [BBC]
  • Walmart and Instacart have joined forces to compete with Amazon for same day deliveries. It’s like a superhero movie, only everyone’s a villain! [The Verge]
  • Debbie Soo, OpenTable’s new CEO, is betting “dining will be back.” [Bloomberg]
  • Okay, there is some news unrelated to the pandemic (wee!): A turkey dinner-flavored candy corn is imminent (boooooo). [Today]

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