Biden Seeks Hero Pay for Grocery Employees

L.A. to vote on $5-per-hour pay hike for city’s grocery and retail workers.

January 26, 2021

WASHINGTON—President Biden wants food retailers to provide their employees with back hero pay as part of a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan announced last week, reports

The proposal also calls on lawmakers to approve unemployment aid to grocery delivery workers, ride-share drivers and other self-employed individuals, who typically aren’t eligible for compensation if they lose their jobs. ​The announcement follows efforts by labor officials to convince retailers to revive the bonus pay programs they introduced for essential workers early in the pandemic.

Including hero pay in the Biden Administration’s “American Rescue Plan” indicates White House support for the argument that grocery store employees should receive additional bonus pay for the risks they have shouldered during the pandemic.

“A number of large employers, especially in the retail and grocery sectors, have seen bumper profitability in 2020 and yet done little or nothing at all to compensate their workers for the risks they took,” the incoming administration said in a document outlining its rescue package. “The president-elect believes these employers have a duty to do right by their frontline essential workers and acknowledge their sacrifices with generous back hazard pay for the risks they took across 2020 and up to today.”

Early in the pandemic, supermarket operators were lauded for boosting worker pay as the industry scrambled to react to the crisis. But during the summer, some retailers terminated the extra compensation. Critics have called on grocers to reverse that decision, pointed to booming revenue and profits spurred by a population that’s spending more time at home. In July, a group of 15 senators, including Kamala Harris, sent letters to top grocery executives requesting restoration of the pay programs.

H-E-B, Stop & Shop and Target are among the major grocers that paid bonuses to essential workers last year. H-E-B instituted an unspecified permanent pay raise in June, while Natural Grocers announced in April that it would keep a $1 hourly pay bump for its workers indefinitely.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the County Board of Supervisors passed a motion that could lead the city to mandate a $5-per-hour "hero pay" increase for grocery and retail drugstore workers. L.A.’s proposed ordinance, which the grocery industry opposes, is due for a vote today.

To read more about how convenience stores have been working to recognize front-line and essential workers, be sure to check out “Thanking Everyday Heroes” in the September 2020 issue of NACS Magazine.