Omicron is pushing grocery workers to the brink, but they

Dancy is a front-end supervisor overseeing the store’s cash register, self-checkout kiosk, customer service, and liquor departments. At the end of December he worked 11 days straight due to staff shortage due to the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 variant.

Now the rapid spread of Omicron is putting new pressure on already defunct essential workers after nearly two years working through a deadly pandemic. But, unlike millions of office workers, they cannot stay at home and earn their living.

Staffing at the store, where Dancy works, is at its worst level since the pandemic, even lower than in the first wave in March 2020, said a 62-year-old shop steward for the local United Food and Commercial Workers union. He said that employees have left their jobs in recent months and the management has not replaced them. The shop had to close early for a few days due to lack of staff.

The latest increase in sick-calling workers adds additional responsibilities to Dancy and the employees who have to stock shelves, help customers, and complete other tasks. Some customers even shop without masks, which makes them feel unsafe.

“Every day has been a struggle,” Dancy said. “I feel like I’m exhausting myself too much. I’m constantly tired.”

Two weeks ago, he worked on crowded Sundays, when the store was short of staff. It was “the first time in 30 years that I thought ‘I don’t know more that I can and want to do this.'”

A spokesperson for QFC, which is owned by kroger ,KR,, said in an email that the chain offers workers a comprehensive benefits package, which includes an average hourly wage of $18.72. QFC, with around 60 stores, is actively hiring. QFC said it works closely with health authorities to create a safe working and shopping environment and slow the spread of COVID-19.

can’t stay home

The demographics of more than 30 million frontline essential workers differ significantly from those who can work remotely.

According to an Economic Policy Institute study in 2020, about 29% of white workers are able to work from home. But less than one in five black workers and one in six Hispanic workers can work from home.
Frontline industries are disproportionately worked by women and people of color, and are under-represented in many jobs within those industries, according to a 2020 report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

For example, women, who make up 47.4% of the country’s total workforce, make up 50.5% of the nearly seven million grocery workers. Black people represent 11.9% of the workforce, but account for 14.2% of grocery workers.

The latest Covid-19 surge has sickened many workers, while others are calling because their child care plans are in flux as some schools are closing again. And some workers are staying at home because they fear catching the virus at work.
facing staff shortages, such as retailers Messi’s ,M, Their hours of operation have been reduced.
Retail and grocery store workers have faced challenges and security threats during the pandemic – they are underpaid and often work for companies without strong paid sick leave policies or benefits. They have also dealt with angry and sometimes violent customers who refuse to wear masks, shoplifting and open fire in the store.
These factors have contributed to the nationwide labor shortage along with millions of unfilled jobs in the industry.
Minorities and women make up a disproportionate part of the American grocery workforce.
Despite Omicron’s rapid spread, most major retail chains have not reinstated many of the steps they took earlier in the pandemic, such as offering workers hazard pay or requiring customers to wear masks.

They also don’t need frontline workers to vaccinate, hesitant to enforce the mandate. Industry groups have sued to block the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for large employers. Rather, companies are offering cash bonuses and other incentives to encourage employees to get vaccinated.

And although many companies have raised wages, inflation has wiped out at least half of frontline workers’ average wage gains, according to an analysis last month by the Brookings Institute.

“Very few people are making enough money to just get through,” the researchers said.

Maria Molina, who works at a Target store in Lynchburg, Virginia, fills customers’ online delivery and curbside pickup orders, said she is struggling to scale down Omicron’s staffing levels.

“We’re still getting a lot of orders every day. It’s hard because we don’t have as many people helping us,” said Molina, a member of the worker advocacy group Target Workers Unite.

Morale is low at the shop, she said, and her coworkers are frustrated and overworked. He believes that the goal should be to pay risky pay to reward employees for working in difficult conditions.

a Target ,TGT, The spokesperson said in an email that the company invested $1 billion in its employees last year, including increases in salaries and bonuses. Target also said it recently exceeded its target of hiring 100,000 temporary workers and 30,000 permanent supply chain workers during the holidays.

After working at Target since the pandemic began, Molina has begun looking for jobs outside the retail and service industries.

“It would be a lot less stressful and a lot less physically demanding,” she said.

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