Ralphs offers one-time ‘thank you’ bonus after union protests end of coronavirus pay raise

Kroger, which owns Ralphs and several other grocery chains, is phasing out a $2-per-hour coronavirus-related pay raise on Saturday. But it has agreed to a one-time bonus of up to $400.
(Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times)

After Ralphs employees protested the grocery chain’s phasing-out of “appreciation pay” for working through the coronavirus outbreak, parent company Kroger said Friday it would award a new one-time bonus to all hourly grocery, supply-chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center workers.

Employees and union supporters gathered outside a Ralphs store on Vermont and 3rd Street on Friday morning to protest the company’s decision to end the $2-per-hour pay bump on Saturday. Protesters said the risky working conditions that won them extra pay haven’t substantially changed.

Shortly after the protest, Kroger, which owns Ralphs and several other grocery chains, announced the new “thank you” bonus of $400 for full-time employees and $200 for part-time employees.

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“The new Thank You Pay bookends an Appreciation Pay first provided to frontline associates for their efforts at the start of the pandemic in March. It also follows multiple Hero Bonuses that were paid in April through mid-May, with associates receiving their final payment by May 23,” Ralphs spokesman John Votava said in a statement.

John Grant, president of UFCW Local 770, which represents more than 20,000 grocery workers in Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, said that the bonus wasn’t enough, and that the company’s change in course was an attempt to “exit the room more gracefully.”

“A one-time bonus doesn’t reflect the critical and dangerous work grocery clerks are engaged in. They’re not showing up ‘one-time,’ they’re showing up day after day,” he said.

About 25 people gathered for the Friday protest, including Grant, he said. He said it was a part of broader protests by the union in California as well as other Western states including Oregon and Colorado.

There were small demonstrations outside Ralphs and Kroger-owned Food 4 Less stores in Canoga Park, Ventura and West Hollywood, Grant said.

Kroger did not respond to questions about its decisions related to bonus pay.