The holiday rush is good for business – but not for retail workers

This year’s holiday shopping season is expected to bring in record sales – forcing many retail workers to the front lines of the epidemic, despite yet another surge of epidemic contamination.

“Retail employees are stressed and under increased pressure during the holiday season, even in normal times. However, this year, tensions have steadily increased due to severe health and safety risks due to the epidemic, ”Stuart Appelbaum, president of the retail, wholesale and department store union, said in a statement.

“Workers are in public-facing jobs; “They interact with a large number of customers during the holiday season, at their own risk for the Kovid-19 as well as possibly bringing it home for their families,” he said.

According to the National Retail Federation, nearly 190 million people shopped on Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday Weekend last year. While this number is expected to be reduced by 43 percent this year, it means that millions of people will still break away from tradition and deal with a shop.

“Some things have not changed, such as the power of branded moments like Black Friday. We expect record purchases through Thanksgiving weekend. Taylor Scriner, director of Adobe Digital Insights retail analytics, said Tuesday that shoppers expect deals and to save money, and retailers will meet with the call.

While this may come as good news for brick-and-mortar stores that have been crushed by the epidemic, retail workers are panicked by the potential onslaught of eager shoppers – many of whom don’t always follow social disturbances and mask regulations We do.

Alyssa Kinchen, a Victoria Secret outlet shop associate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is scheduled to work at 2pm Friday through Black Friday at 5pm. The company is limiting its capacity to 75 people at a time, but said customers often don’t keep their masks, which adds to their fear that he may contract the virus and give it to their grandparents .

“I don’t know how busy it is going to be,” she told NBC News. “I can find [the virus] But i’m upset nobody [shopping at the store] Concerns. “

Victoria’s parent company L Brands did not respond to a request for comment.

While the epidemic has crushed some retailers, lifted others. According to an analysis by the Brookings Institution, from Walmart to Target, the nation’s top retailers made an average profit of $ 16.9 billion this year over the previous year as stock prices rose 33 percent. But among those companies, workers received an average increase in pay of $ 1.11 per hour since the epidemic began.

In the spring, at the height of the coronovirus crisis, retailers “paid the hazard” to store employees who worked through the epidemic. However, many of those companies have turned down that payment – even their share prices have gone up.

Kröger initially offered workers a raise of $ 2 per hour, but later adjusted its hazardous pay schedule with a one-time payment bonus and two separate prizes of $ 100 in store credit. Nevertheless, in September, the grocery chain bought its own stock of $ 1 billion in share buybacks, which they do when the stock market is strong.

“We continue to listen to our partners and take steps to ensure their safety and well-being,” the company said in a statement.

Despite seeing its shares plummet by nearly 100 percent since the epidemic, Amazon cut an alarming $ 2-hour wage at its warehouses and fulfillment centers.

Amazon did not return a request for comment.

Walmart decided not to offer a dangerous salary, but instead issued cash bonuses to associates twice – an amount that some workers said is not enough to cover the risk they take to run the store.

A colleague at Walmart said, “This should be an hour-long increase for the duration of the epidemic.” “For these people working there, four or five days a week, eight hours a day, risking their lives, seeing how the virus is spreading in the country, from $ 2 to $ 3 extra hours. Is a beginning. I don’t know if this is the answer, but it’s a lot better than what we are getting right now.

In September, sales soared and the shares reached record highs, with the company spending $ 500 million to repurchase its own stock.

Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“They are putting an advantage on people and not prioritizing our safety,” said Melissa Love, an associate at Walmart in Long Beach, California.

Organizations including United for Respect, a nonprofit labor group, have called on retailers including Amazon, Walmart and Petco to pay employees an additional $ 5 per hour through the epidemic. Love, who works on Black Friday, said that this extra salary can go a long way with workers who are working at the cash register at the pack store during the busy holiday season.

“Now you have a lot of people in the store,” she said. “They are not worried about safety.”

Many retail workers say they have no choice but to risk getting sick. A full-time worker at a PetSmart in Fort Wayne, Indiana, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said he worried about working on Black Friday morning and was not receiving a dangerous salary.

“It is great to have the luxury to shop on Black Friday when it is not an epidemic,” he said. “When it does, it’s important to think about people other than yourself.”

PetSmart said it paid more than $ 30 million in “thank-you bonuses” to workers, as well as health care premiums and benefits. It said it invested $ 1 million in company funds to support workers experiencing personal or financial difficulties. But these investments do not have the amount to pay.

A PetSmart employee said he was unable to keep the rate at $ 11 an hour. He lives with his brother and sister-in-law and they all finance to meet their expenses.

” [Black Friday] The deals are tempting, “he said.” But it is life and death for many people. “

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