Hazard pay was supposed to compensate workers for Covid-19 risks. It ended up as more of a PR stunt.
Rates of Covid-19 infection are the highest they’ve ever been in the U.S.—but you wouldn’t know that based on how grocery stores are compensating their supposedly essential workers. In July, retailers began to phase out pandemic-time bonuses known as “hazard pay,” even as cases approached what was then a new record high of cases. Now, as we approach a third peak, as well as the holiday season, workers’ unions are making a renewed attempt to compel employers like Kroger, Walmart, and Amazon to restore hazard pay. As The New Republic points out, these retailers have seen record sales during the public health emergency, but appear unmoved to remunerate workers for their role in setting those records. Hazard pay, the publication declares, was just a bit of early-pandemic reputation laundering, and its job here is apparently done.