While many Americans are working at home, workers who are considered essential are putting their health on the line by showing up for work each day. Some essential workers, like healthcare workers, are used to working in situations that could be hazardous to their health.
But other workers now considered essential, like those who work in grocery stores and pharmacies, truckers, package delivery people, food delivery people, and warehouse workers, are not used to putting their health at risk for their jobs. Many argue that they should be getting hazard pay for their work during the coronavirus.
Hazard pay is an additional amount of pay on top of an employee’s regular salary or hourly rate that’s paid to employees who are performing dangerous jobs. Hazard pay is usually offered to employees whose jobs could result in serious injury or death.
Some companies offer an extra amount per hour for hourly employees as hazard pay. Others offer employees time and a half for working in dangerous conditions.
Employers are not required by law to give employees hazard pay, so it’s up to the employer’s discretion.
Stop sending me thank you emails and start giving me hazard pay
— D Bshaw (@_Dehra) March 27, 2020
Normally, working at a grocery store or pharmacy, or delivering packages, or working in a delivery company’s warehouse isn’t a dangerous job. However, during the coronavirus crisis, any job that requires frequent interaction with the public is a dangerous job.
Since people can transmit the virus long before they know they have symptoms, essential workers are potentially being exposed any time they interact with a person. They also risk being exposed by coming into contact with frequently touched surfaces, which applies to pretty much all of the surfaces in their workplaces.
So, these workers are asking for hazard pay as an acknowledgment of the extra risks they’re taking for showing up at their formerly safe jobs.
Too many people are risking their lives showing up to work every day.
I stand with workers as they fight for their own safety.
Every employer in America must guarantee:
🥽 Protective gear
🧼 Hand sanitizer and soap
⚠️ Hazard pay
🏭 A safe, clean workplace
🛌 Paid sick leave
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) March 31, 2020
This week, essential employees in the grocery industry organized strikes to demand hazard pay. On Monday, employees of Instacart, a service that employs people to shop for and deliver groceries, held a nationwide strike. On Tuesday, employees at Whole Foods stores all around the country called out “sick” to protest not being given hazard pay or ample protections.
Employees of several other grocery store chains, including Trader Joe’s, have circulated petitions asking people to support their demands for hazard pay. Unions for grocery workers are also discussing actions to ensure people are getting hazard pay.
Please refrain from using instacart or amazon today if u are able. Help our strikers organizing for hazard pay and paid sick leave.
— EsmirElle (@ESMirelle) March 30, 2020
Many are calling essential workers heroes for putting their health on the line when they show up for work. While this is certainly true, one of the things that’s been largely overlooked in the conversation about essential workers is that many low wage essential workers can’t afford to miss work, or worse, lose their jobs.
The people delivering our packages, checking us out at the grocery store, and the pharmacy, delivering the food to our grocery stores, and preparing our shipments of essentials aren’t paid very well to begin with. Some of them are even paid minimum wage. Many of them live paycheck to paycheck. Many of them don’t have savings. Many of them can’t afford to miss even a single paycheck.
So, they’re not choosing to be heroes by going to work. They’re going to work because they don’t have any other choice. Many of them would stay home to stay safe if they could, but they can’t.
So, should they be getting hazard pay? Absolutely. The majority of us aren’t being forced to put ourselves in danger to work. They are. And they should be compensated accordingly.
tired of the messaging that service workers are "selflessly" continuing to work during a crisis. they aren't doing it selflessly. they're doing it bc if they don't they'll lose their job and won't be able to pay rent. they deserve free healthcare, paid sick leave, and hazard pay.
— Lonnie (@veryfriendly) March 27, 2020