One of the things that the coronavirus pandemic made us realize is just how much we rely on essential workers—from healthcare professionals and supermarket employees to truckers and fast food workers. However, some essential employees are feeling angry that they’re risking their health and don’t get (enough) hazard pay or worthwhile extra rewards.
Twitter user Milkvamp shared that their best friend who works at Walmart received a thank-you note from management and some candy instead of getting extra pay or benefits. Milkvamp’s post got more than 113k likes, was reshared by 25k people, and started a discussion that went into detail about the topic. It turns out that it’s not a simple black-and-white issue. Some people pitched in with their own stories about unfair working conditions during the pandemic. However, one person pointed out that Walmart actually already gave some of its employees hazard pay (and is planning to do so again). While others argued that getting mad at managers who give out candy and who likely have no control over the overarching financial decisions that large companies make might be unfair.
Some companies like Target plan to extend wage increases for workers until July, but as a whole, employers are rolling back extra pay. Meanwhile, though Amazon had increased its employees’ wages by 2 dollars per hour, this so-called extra ‘hero pay’ will end at the end of May. Scroll down for Bored Panda’s interview about hazard pay with Dr. Eddy Ng, the James and Elizabeth Freeman Professor of Management at Bucknell University, as well as the author of the thread, Milkvamp.
One Twitter user started up a discussion about hazard pay when they shared how their friend working at Walmart got a bag of candy as a thank you
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Milkvamp told Bored Panda that their friend thought that the bag of candy was infantilizing. “It’s not about the specific bag itself, that’s not what I was upset about. It’s the overwhelming narrative that giving them thanks is enough. People working at Walmart make poverty wages and often don’t have healthcare. They have to work during the pandemic, they’re not volunteers,” Milkvamp relayed their friend’s thoughts to us.
“Slapping a note saying thanks on a bag of candy is not wanted or necessary. What is necessary is paying Walmart employees like essential workers permanently after witnessing a world-changing event that proved our society desperately needs their labor to keep moving,” Milkvamp’s friend continued. According to the Twitter user, their friend is also not angry at his managers “for their (maybe misguided) attempt to help but at corporate who’s response has been abysmal at best.”
Other people pitched in, shared their thoughts…
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…and some even posted photos of their own ‘extra pay’
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“While it is true that some large employers (e.g. Walmart) have provided hazard pay, many employers (Kroger, Target, Amazon) are now rolling them back,” Dr. Ng pointed out that companies are putting a stop to extra pay. “Most are still not providing any additional pay for work that has been deemed as essential but also hazardous.”
The professor pointed out that gestures like giving out candy to essential workers in place of hazard pay, if this is done as part of official company policy (instead of managers doing so on an individual level), are “simply disrespectful of the sacrifice that is asked of employees.” He continued: “As the economy further contracts, there will be fewer employment opportunities, leading many employees to be unwilling to ask for hazard pay for fear of retaliation or diminished employment prospects.”
Dr. Ng added that the US House of Representatives has passed the ‘Heroes Act’ which provides hazard pay. “But it still has to go through the Senate,” the professor said. “Employee groups such as unions need to take a more proactive role in ensuring hazard pay is included in employee compensation. It is up to employer decency to offer hazard pay.”
“Employers need to do more”
In an earlier interview with Bored Panda, Dr. Ng went into more detail about essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic, how lots of people are calling them heroes, and about hazard pay.
“Although we hear the term ‘heroes’ being used to describe many essential workers, the term is apt because they perform work that can bring harm to themselves and potentially their families,” The professor said.
“Not all heroes are idolized or worshiped, but there is certainly an element of bravery and self-sacrifice here. Thus, the term hero is an expression of gratitude by the collective or community who are dependent on these essential workers. Since many of them are not being paid much or don’t have a choice but to come to work, the term ‘hero’ also provides intrinsic motivation and fulfillment for these workers.”
According to Dr. Ng, there’s greater recognition of how critically important these workers are because our health, safety, and survival depend on them. “This gratitude will pass when the pandemic is over and things return to normalcy, thus it is important for us to recognize their contributions now,” he said.
“Few employers (e.g., Cargill, Safeway) are providing better compensation but that also reflects a rapidly declining supply of labor (workers are getting sick) and employers enticing others to join the labor market,” the professor explained. “Employers need to do more, such as providing the tools to perform these jobs safely. At the very least, they need to provide a pay premium (‘hazard pay’) when asking workers to perform work that can expose themselves to harm.”
However, not everyone was quick to judge. Some pointed out that it’s unfair to get upset at managers when they have no control over their company’s policy
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Meanwhile, others continued to joke about the weird way some companies reward their employees
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But some people pointed out that some of these rewards were probably managers taking the initiative and trying to boost their colleagues’ morale personally
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