Gee & Ursula: Report shows most Kroger grocery workers struggle to afford food

Jan 12, 2022, 10:02 AM
The milk shelf is mostly empty at a giant grocery store on Jan. 11, 2022, in Washington. Shortages at U.S. grocery stores have grown in recent weeks. (AP Photo/Parker Purifoy)
(AP Photo/Parker Purifoy)

A new report shows that more than two-thirds of Kroger grocery workers are struggling to afford food, housing, or other basic needs because of low wages and part-time work schedules.

Freeway, mountain pass closures hit Puget Sound region grocery stores with shortages

The Economic Roundtable report on Kroger workers analyzed the working and living conditions of more than 36,000 grocery store employees in four states, including Washington, across eight Kroger-owned brands. It found that 14% of Kroger workers are homeless or have been homeless in the past year, and 78% are food insecure.

And this isn’t just a Kroger issue, as host Ursula Reutin points out — there is a long list of big companies in the United States that have employees relying on public assistance, including Amazon and Walmart.

So, should people who work at a Kroger grocery store be able to pay their expenses?

“Yes,” host Gee Scott said. “… Last year, in 2021, Kroger’s total company sales were $31.9 billion in the third quarter alone, compared to $29.7 billion for that same period the year before. That doesn’t count fuel. … I also want to point out and remind you guys that Kroger ended its $2 an hour hazard pay raise two months into the pandemic, and opted to close stores in some cities that passed laws mandating hazard pay raises.”

Now, he says, low wages and expiring government assistance has workers struggling to make ends meet.

Gee believes those workers should be paid livable wages. But Ursula asked what that looks like and what a reasonable salary would be for these positions.

“In the city of Seattle, it costs $27 an hour to be able to rent an apartment here in the Seattle area. So how about $25 an hour? How about enough to where, we, the taxpayers, don’t have to subsidize the income for these folks that aren’t making enough?” Gee suggested.

“I scratch my head at why we, as a society, are OK with so many people struggling,” he added.

Ursula said Kroger’s response to the report was that, on average, they are paying more than $24 an hour to cover wages, health care, and retirement benefits, compared with an $18 an hour average for U.S. retail workers.

“There are people who will argue that if you want to have a livable wage, you’re not going to go into these professions,” she said. “But then you also have to look at it and say, well, if you want people to work in these professions, you have to make it a livable wage.”

“The day has come — and the day is here — that employees are not about to sit here and be underpaid,” Gee said.

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Gee and Ursula Show

Gee and Ursula

amazon hiring...
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Ursula: Amazon targeting ‘younger and less expensive’ coders

Amidst mass layoffs, Amazon might also be changing their hiring policy for entry-level programmers to restrict positions to recent grads.
1 day ago
right on red...
Bill Kaczaraba

Gee & Ursula: Right turns on red may become a thing of the past

Under new legislation proposed in the state Senate, right turns on red at many intersections may become a thing of the past in the state.
5 days ago
african-american studies...
Bill Kaczaraba

Gee & Ursula: FL downsizing Black studies ‘doesn’t erase history’

The College Board has released a stripped-down version of its new Advanced Placement course on Black studies.
6 days ago
Frank Sumrall

KIRO’s Darren Dedo recovering after battle with bilateral pneumonia

Through ECMO and amazing medical care, more than a month later, Dedo was able to join The Gee and Ursula Show remotely from his hospital bed.
7 days ago
Seattle Police...
Bill Kaczaraba

Gee & Ursula: Naming officer in pedestrian death was appropriate

Gee & Ursula believe that releasing the name of the police officer involved in the deadly pedestrian crash in Seattle was appropriate.
7 days ago
Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin Show

Scenarios: I’m not ok with my stepdaughter spending my husband’s money

On the Gee and Ursula Show, hosts Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin give advice to help other people in a segment called … Scenarios.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Gee & Ursula: Report shows most Kroger grocery workers struggle to afford food