WE’VE BEEN THINKING A LOT ABOUT THE FRAGILITY OF THE AMERICAN ECONOMY, specifically with regard to the American worker. While healthcare workers are vulnerable to direct exposure to the novel coronavirus, gig workers stand to be hit especially hard by any economic contraction, as they lack proper worker protections. Grocery workers, on the other hand, are on the frontlines and stand to be exposed directly to the virus, though they often lack many of the better employment protections afforded to healthcare workers. So, it was especially fitting when I discovered this gem today floating around Al Gore’s internet from a Kroger offering workers– wait for it- a discount on Pepsi products.
In an e-mail, Kroger verified the authenticity of the flyer, which rewards hard-working team members with the dubious honor of being able to buy Pepsi singles for $1. Team members are reminded that Dr. Pepper, a Coca-Cola product, is NOT included, and are limited to two per transaction.
Cincinnati-based Kroger and other grocery chains have come under fire for accusations that they are not doing an adequate job of protecting workers. To their credit, the chain has, however, teamed up with the UFCW to advocate for placing grocery workers in the same category as first responders. This would allow them to get preferential access to preventive measures, treatment, and testing for COVID.
It is a step. But it is insufficient for a workforce that by and large, cannot make ends meet. According to PayScale, the average Kroger worker makes $10.39 an hour plus benefits, which is not enough money to live in any state. Low-wage workers are the most vulnerable during the pandemic– economically, certainly, if not directly as a result of exposure risk. But who needs a living wage when you’ve got deals on that effervescent, smooth nectar of fructose-glucose and carcinogenicity?