When the independent news site Tennessee Holler tweeted a letter from Kroger to an employee, clawing back $461.60 in â€śoverpaidâ€ť emergency pay and even threatening â€śfurther collection efforts,â€ť outrage ensued. As it should. But the good news is, Kroger quickly paid attention to that outrage and backed off.
â€śWeâ€™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,â€ť a Kroger spokesperson said in response to questions.
Thatâ€™s not to say Kroger is now a workersâ€™ paradise. Itâ€™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 â€¦ and then announced lump sum â€śthank youâ€ť bonuses. So thereâ€™s a little bit of a pattern of Kroger trying to cheap out its workers only to back off when people noticed. But thatâ€™s better than if the company stuck to its guns on its worst impulses.
Kroger isnâ€™t the only company to have stopped paying hourly hazard pay. Starbucks, Target, and Amazon have all announced theyâ€™ll be ending the temporary increasesâ€”even though the danger hasnâ€™t ended for workers. And thereâ€™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.