Rico Thomas, left, has been a clerk in the Fuel Center/Mini Mart at Safeway in Federal Way for the past 5 years. Kyong Barry, right, has been with Albertsons for 18 years and is a front end supervisor in Auburn. Both are active members of UFCW 21. Courtesy photos

Rico Thomas, left, has been a clerk in the Fuel Center/Mini Mart at Safeway in Federal Way for the past 5 years. Kyong Barry, right, has been with Albertsons for 18 years and is a front end supervisor in Auburn. Both are active members of UFCW 21. Courtesy photos

Grocery store workers deserve respect and hazard pay | Guest column

  • Thursday, September 3, 2020 1:30pm
  • Opinion

As grocery store workers in King County, we experience the hard, cold realities of the COVID-19 pandemic every single day.

And despite the fact that our company’s revenues are up more than 20% over last year, and the fact that our CEO got compensated $28.9 million last year, and the fact that profits are more than 10 times higher than last year – despite all this extra money, early this summer our company cut the $2/hour hazard pay we had been getting since March.

While more customers have been spending more money at the grocery store, and we as workers are being asked to do more and bear the stress of a risky work environment, we are getting paid less. Where is the justice in that?

This work was hard enough even before COVID-19. Even though we helped pass one of the best minimum wage and paid sick day laws in the nation, and our negotiated union contract provides quality affordable health care and consistent raises, it is still hard for many of us to make ends meet.

And then in March, as the health crisis of COVID-19 ramped up, we started to get extra assigned responsibilities. In the case of the front end work at Albertsons, we had the additional workload of sanitizing carts between each use and also cleaning bathrooms every hour as just two examples. In the case of the Safeway Fuel Center/Mini Mart, we had all the regular challenges of a work day: re-supplying, stocking, cleaning bathrooms, running the register, taking out the trash and even sometimes putting out fires on the nearby grounds next to the station. The added stress and high turnover has made it even harder to get through the days.

How many co-workers need to get sick? How much turnover of staff needs to take place? How many days do we need to come to work and risk getting a deadly virus, then taking that home to our loved ones?

We appreciate the support of customers and the face masks worn by the vast majority. And we ask that everyone follow this example as one way to help get through this crisis. A simple mask, 6 feet of distance and some common decency can go a long way. We need management to limit the number of shoppers in the store at one time, and also enforce mask wearing if a shopper comes into the store without one and puts us all in harm’s way.

Can you imagine coming to work every day knowing that you will be in contact with 200-300 people, any one of whom could be COVID-19 positive? Can you imagine being paid less than earlier in the crisis, even though your employer is asking you to do more with oftentimes less staff — and the corporation is making huge sums of money because of the crisis itself? We can because that is exactly what is happening at Alberstons and Safeway.

We need Albertsons and Safeway to clean up their act. Honestly, earlier in the spring, they were behaving much better than now. We had more staff and were getting hazard pay. Now we have more to do and are paid less. That is wrong and it needs to change.

Kyong Barry has been with Albertsons for 18 years and is a front end supervisor in Auburn. Rico Thomas has been a clerk in the Fuel Center/Mini Mart at Safeway in Federal Way for the past 5 years. Both are active members of UFCW 21. UFCW 21 is the state’s largest private sector union with over 46,000 members working in grocery stores, health care, retail and other industries.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
State Legislature will reflect our changing society | Roegner

When you picture the Washington state Legislature, it usually looks like mostly… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at thebrunells@msn.com.
Coronavirus and the silver lining for airline industry | Brunell

It’s no secret that airlines and airplane manufacturers have been clobbered by… Continue reading

Courtesy photo Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos took his future wife, Wendy, to the Rose Bowl game between Washington and Michigan.
When life is threatened, love finds a way

I wanted her to live. I wanted a future with her.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
I-940: Good policy, but watch closely | Roegner

State law regarding use of deadly force is finally seeing results in 2020.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Editorial: Let’s clear the air on wildfires, climate change

Agreement and commitment is needed to address the causes of wildfires and climate change.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Republican’s write-in campaign highlights post-primary intrigue | Roegner

Can former Bothell mayor beat two Democrats for lieutenant governor post?

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
What does it mean to violate the Hatch Act? | Roegner

The federal law was established in 1939.

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Editorial: State lawmakers shouldn’t wait to start budget work

Making tough choices on cuts and revenue can’t wait until next year and hopes for better news.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Race relations and your local police department | Roegner

The jury is our citizens, and they are divided.

Rico Thomas, left, has been a clerk in the Fuel Center/Mini Mart at Safeway in Federal Way for the past 5 years. Kyong Barry, right, has been with Albertsons for 18 years and is a front end supervisor in Auburn. Both are active members of UFCW 21. Courtesy photos
Grocery store workers deserve respect and hazard pay | Guest column

As grocery store workers in King County, we experience the hard, cold… Continue reading

Don Brunell
Why we should reconsider nuclear power | Brunell

If Americans are to receive all of their electricity without coal and… Continue reading

Courtesy photo
Editorial: Make certain you count in 2020 census

The Census Bureau has been told to cut its work short, making your response even more important.