The novel coronavirus has brought a storm of bad news for American workers.
Aside from the medical concerns, the economic impact of store, business, and restaurant closures is expected to be massive on the workforce. We just learned that a record-breaking 3.28 million weekly jobless claims were filed last week.
However, for some retail workers, the crisis has spurned a (temporary) wage increase, hiring, and bonus bonanza. Retailers and grocery stores nationwide have announced wage increases, bonuses, and paid leave benefits to retain their workers and attract others.
Interestingly, we haven’t seen such a wave in employers voluntarily raising wages since the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed.
This is a great and important step that private employers are taking to signal to their employees that they value their sacrifices, working extra shifts, and implementing policies to keep shoppers safe as they stock up on groceries and essentials.
Here are 9 retailers that have boosted benefits for workers during this coronavirus crisis:
- Walmart is paying $550 million in special cash bonuses to its full- and part-time hourly workers and raising wages for workers at its fulfillment centers by $2 an hour through Memorial Day.
- Amazon is temporarily increasing its minimum wage by $2 to $17 an hour for hourly workers, and raising overtime pay for warehouse workers.
- Target is raising its minimum wage to $17 for hourly workers and paying out bonuses to 20,000 hourly store team leaders.
- CVS will give bonuses of up to $500 to hourly workers, store managers and pharmacists.
- Albertsons, which also owns Safeway, is raising wages by $2 an hour
- Kroger is giving full-time workers a $300 cash bonus and part-timers $150
- Trader Joe’s is setting up a bonus pool for employees.
- Whole Foods is raising hourly pay.
- BJ’s Wholesale Club will raise wages by $2 an hour for workers and give bonuses to managers.
In addition to increasing pay, many of these employers are hiring more staff to manage a surge in consumer demand in stores and online. Walmart plans to hire 150,000 temporary workers through the end of May in its stores and fulfillment centers. Amazon plans to hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the US.
For laid off workers in the retail and hospitality industries these positions may be a temporary lifeline back to work until hotels, bars, and restaurants reopen.
Unfortunately, even with this good news, perennial critics of major employers like Amazon and Walmart are using this crisis as an opportunity to hammer them on paid sick leave.
We certainly hope that employers will continue to expand paid sick leave because it makes good business sense as a tool for retention of the best workers. In recent years, major employers have expanded paid leave benefits thanks to a tight jobs market and tax cuts. However, paid leave mandates right now are not what we need. With skyrocketing unemployment, we want employers to hire workers, not be discouraged from hiring due to costly mandates.
We need to focus on getting Americans to work and, where possible, the public and private sector should come together to provide American families the economic relief they need until they can get back on their feet.