Frontline Workers: The Life of Grocery Store Employees

(Source: Flickr/l_dawg2000)

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing changes for everyone in all different realms of life, especially for the grocery store workers who face high levels of public exposure.

These changes are received differently among employees depending on many factors, one of which being how long they have been in the grocery store industry.

Sarah Shafer is a front end cashier and bagger at Dorothy Lane Market in Oakwood. She started there in the middle of Feb. 2020, not too long before the pandemic started.

Due to the pandemic, all employees are required to wear gloves with a goal of cycling cashiers and baggers out every 30 minutes so they can wash their hands and change gloves. If customers choose to use their own reusable bags, they have to bag their groceries themselves.

After these initial changes to avoid cross-contamination, plexiglass was set up in front of each cash register. There are circles on the ground indicating where the next customer should stand while they wait so that they are at least six feet away from others. The store has also limited the number of people allowed inside at once to 60 customers.

Shafer said that these changes haven’t really made the job much harder but that it is sometimes hard to hear customers through masks and plexiglass.

“While some of these changes seem minimal, it will benefit everyone in the long run.”

Part-time employees at Dorothy Lane Market received a $100 gift card for the store at which they work. Full-time employees received a $200 gift card and managers received a $500 gift card.

In the break room, there are typically four tables and four chairs at each table. Now only four people are allowed in the breakroom at one time, and each table must only have one person.

Shafer is dealing with the changes as they come and is happy to follow along with whatever precautions her work asks her to take.

(Source: Flickr/Nicholas Eckhart)

Angela Shafer has been working for Kroger for 35 years. She spent the first 34.5 years in the meat and seafood department but is currently working for Clicklist. Before the pandemic, Clicklist received a max of 80 orders a day but now they are receiving a max of 165 orders.

Clicklist is now accepting food stamps whereas before someone could not use food stamps through its ordering system.

Starting on April 24, all Kroger employees were required to wear masks while gloves are currently optional. Angela feels as though being required to wear a mask takes away from her freedom of choice.

Kroger has given all employees a $2 “hero bonus” on their hourly wage. Angela said that full-time employees received a $500 bonus and she believes that part-time employees received a $250 bonus.

About the bonus pay, Angela said that she wonders what the compensation is really for considering how if she were to get the Coronavirus as a result of working, the pay would not be enough to cover the medical expenses.

When thinking about the future and how it relates to this epidemic, she worries about how her rights as an individual will be affected in regard to what will be made mandatory.

COVID-19 is making changes to everyone’s life and some people are being more disproportionately affected than others such as grocery store workers who work on the frontlines of this pandemic. It is important to stay educated, thoughtful and connected during this time.

Hannah Shafer

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