Public outrage gets results after Kroger tries to take back emergency payments to some workers

When the independent news site Tennessee Holler tweeted a letter from Kroger to an employee, clawing back $461.60 in “overpaid” emergency pay and even threatening “further collection efforts,” outrage ensued. As it should. But the good news is, Kroger quickly paid attention to that outrage and backed off.

“We’ve instructed our payroll department to directly inform the small number of associates affected by the recent overpayments of Emergency Leave of Absence pay that we will not seek repayment,” a Kroger spokesperson said in response to questions.

That’s not to say Kroger is now a workers’ paradise. It’s still a company where the CEO was paid $21.1 million in 2019 while typical workers took in less than $27,000. Kroger also recently announced it was ending $2 per hour hazard pay … and then announced lump sum “thank you” bonuses. So there’s a little bit of a pattern of Kroger trying to cheap out its workers only to back off when people noticed. But that’s better than if the company stuck to its guns on its worst impulses.

Kroger isn’t the only company to have stopped paying hourly hazard pay. Starbucks, Target, and Amazon have all announced they’ll be ending the temporary increases—even though the danger hasn’t ended for workers. And there’s the fact that $2 to $3 more per hour was seen as a reasonable bonus for exposure to a potentially fatal disease, which is a devastating commentary on American corporate culture. (Or on American capitalism itself.)

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on May 19, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor.

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