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Trader Joe's is making bank on coronavirus shopping, so its employees demanded a cut

Unlike other retail establishments, grocery stores don’t close during a crisis. In fact, we need them — they're getting bundles of money during this pandemic. Trader Joe's, for example, is experiencing an “unprecedented increase,” in sales, reported Business Insider, which is great for them as corporate entity. But as we all know, it’s the employees who make that cash flow possible. In order to help employees cope with the increased labor (and increased exposure to coronavirus), Trader Joe’s is providing bonus pay during this busy and perilous time.

The company is setting up a bonus pool based on sales increases, reported Business Insider, which means that the company is taking the extra money it has made during the pandemic and distributing some of it to employees. Each store will have a separate pool, so the amount each employee will receive depends on both how much they have worked and how much extra pandemic cash their store raked in, Business Insider reported.

"We want to acknowledge the incredible hard work and dedication of our Crew Members in supporting each other and our communities by sharing the financial benefit of this sales increase with our store crew who have worked so hard during the past several weeks, and for as long as this challenge remains," stated as internal Trader Joe’s memo reviewed by Business Insider. What the memo doesn’t mention is that this generous announcement follows an online petition started by Trader Joe’s employees demanding hazard pay during the epidemic. The company has not responded publicly to the petition or to media requests for comment.

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“Trader Joe’s offered to reimburse sick time for any worker who becomes ill for up to one week,” the employee petition states. “That is insufficient — it requires workers to work until they get sick before they can receive any compensation for putting their lives in danger.” The threat of infection is real. The company announced yesterday that one Trader Joe’s employee has tested positive for COVID-19 in Seattle. That employee hasn’t been at work since March 7th, according to the press release, and the company made no mention of whether they were covering the medical costs or additional lost wages of the employee.

Trader Joe’s may seem like the hero here, but it’s only because the workers demanded help. It’s also worth noting that these bonuses are only possible because of the enormous size and scope of the company. It’s heartening to get any good news for workers right now, but a grim reminder that smaller companies in less in-demand industries won’t likely be able to replicate this.