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Three cheers for grocery store workers

They deserve them, and more.

They are the friendly cashiers, the helpful baggers, the essential stockers and warehouse workers. The receivers who unload the delivery trucks, the personal shoppers who fulfill online orders and the teenagers who haul back all the shopping carts left behind in the parking lot.

Supermarket employees have long toiled behind the scenes of the most mundane of weekly errands: grocery shopping. But since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, the humble grocery worker has taken on a new mantle in society, that of an emergency first responder in the global fight against the spread of the virus.

Grocery employees are working long hours — and putting their lives on the line — to provide food and basic household essentials to worried consumers increasingly staying at home during the pandemic. Unlike office staff, these workers cannot do their job from the comfort of their homes. U.S. grocery cashiers made a median wage of $10.78 per hour in 2018, far less than the median salaries for police officers ($30.47 an hour) and firefighters ($23.85 an hour), according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At the same time, these workers have taken on additional duties, particularly to help keep stores clean. H-E-B is asking employees to devote shifts to cleaning entire stores, wiping down self-checkout after every two customers and frequently sanitizing high-touch areas, such as scales and shopping carts.

“People are starting to realize who they are, that these folks are really unbelievable,” H-E-B President Scott McClelland said. “They realize we’re on the front lines and we’ve got a role to fill in the community, one that’s as essential as the medical community.”

You might also read this Texas Monthly story about how HEB prepared for coronavirus, because unlike a certain Presidential administration I could name, they understood that it was coming and they needed to be ready for it. Funny how these things work. Anyway, among the many things that I hope come out of this crisis, maybe now we will all learn to appreciate – and compensate – people like these a bit more. They have more than earned it.

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One Comment

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    Well, other than the part about Trump, I agree with all of that. Remember when America was focused on impeachment? While Congress was full tilt on that, Trump was doing stuff like the ban on travel from China, and organizing the Wuhan virus task force, bringing in Birx, etc.

    The main focus of this I agree with wholeheartedly, and my agreement with this predates the current dust up. There is value in all work, and I appreciate anyone who is out busting their ass earning a living, vs. living off government handouts. I also have always made it a point to be polite to anyone working, except for the telemarketer scammers, most of whom seem to be calling from India or Pakistan. I’m extremely insulting to them. Other than that, I’m courteous even to American telemarketers who ignore the do not call list. They’re just trying to work, even if their companies are sketchy.

    There are two kinds of people, those who are dismissive of people doing menial work, because they can be, and I guess, it strokes their ego to do so, and people who are polite to everyone, regardless of job status. We should all be in the latter group.