Ralphs and Food 4 Less will pay its workers an additional $2 hourly for at least the next three weeks, matching wage increases already in place at other big Southern California supermarket chains.

The announcement, made jointly Wednesday, April 1 by parent company Kroger and the union that represents 22,000 of its California workers, came after the United Food and Commercial Workers criticized a bonus the company had originally offered.

Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions, and San Bernardino-based Stater Bros. announced $2 hourly raises March 20 as workers struggled to keep up with the demands of coronavirus-stoked crowds. Kroger instead offered its workers one-time bonuses of between $150 and $300.

The bonuses led to a harsh rebuke from UFCW Local 1167 President Joe Duffle, who called them “shameful.”

The two sides returned to bargaining sessions and came up with a three-week plan for raises. Kroger and UFCW will revisit the situation after that, according to the statement.

“The Hero Bonus is just one more way we continue to convey our thanks and gratitude not only to our existing associates but also to the more than 30,000 new hires who have joined in the past two weeks,” Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen said in the statement.

The deal covers some 460,000 Kroger workers nationwide, including employees at distribution facilities and call centers, pharmacists and other workers.

Along with the raises, employees will get enhanced paid family leave, expanded health care services, a more efficient employee health hotline, and a faster payment system for workers who shop at their stores, among other benefits.

Supermarkets also have been hustling to install checkout partitions, aka sneeze guards, to help protect their workers. The coronavirus outbreak has seen grocery stores stripped of household supplies as shoppers bulk up under shelter-at-home mandates. Hours have been reduced so staff can have more time to stock shelves and sanitize the stores.

Source: Press Enterprise