Retail giant Walmart on Thursday announced it will give $700 million in bonuses to its 1.5 million U.S. employees amidst calls from retail workers to have hazard pay reinstated.
The Washington Post notes that Walmart has managed to maintain a steady business this year, with its stock value rising more than 25 percent, all while many well-known retail companies have declared bankruptcies and closures due to the pandemic.
“As we come to a close on this historic year, I’m filled with gratitude for how our associates have led through one of the most trying periods for our company and country,” said Walmart’s President and Chief Executive John Furner. “Our associates have stepped up to serve our customers, communities and each other when it was truly needed most.”
Workers and advocates say that companies like Walmart are failing to take care of their employees who put themselves at risk by going to work in a pandemic. The United Food and Commercial Workers union has said 109 grocery workers have died due to COVID-19. The organization represents 900,000 employees, and more than 17,400 have been exposed or infected.
The total number of grocery worker deaths due to the pandemic is likely to be much higher as retailers are not required to report cases or deaths to officials.
Last week the workers rights group United for Respect asked that major retailers such as Walmart, Amazon and Petco pay their employees an additional $5 an hour for the remainder of the pandemic. The organization's "Five to Survive" campaign is asking retailers to give workers access to paid and unpaid leave, safety precautions against the virus and protection from retaliation.
The U.S. has reported over 13.8 million cases as of Dec. 3 and over 272,000 deaths due to the virus. On Dec. 2 the U.S. recorded the most new cases in a single day when it reported 196,227 cases.