Are grocers giving frontline heroes their due?

Discussion
Sources: Twitter/@EatDrinkBuyBC; @FarmFoodCareON
Jul 15, 2022

On July 19, Canada will celebrate its third annual Grocery Heroes Day, an industry-backed holiday meant to honor frontline grocery workers.

Grocery Heroes Day was launched by trade publication Grocery Business in 2020 and it has received backing from major Canadian grocers like Sobeys and Save-on-Foods, according to a press release. CPG trade association Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada (FCHP) has also offered its support. Last year, the holiday was celebrated by some grocers with amenities such as thank you bags, t-shirts and events like barbecues. 

The Grocery Heroes Day website recommends recognizing the holiday by:

  • Posting Grocery Heroes Day signage in-store and on e-commerce sites; 
  • Setting aside time on July 19 to publicly recognize staff contributions;
  • Setting up Grocery Hero contests with gift certificates as prizes;
  • Taking event photos and promoting Grocery Heroes Day on social media.

While this year’s press release touts a great deal of industry support for Grocery Heroes Day, some have been critical of the holiday’s failure to impact actual working conditions or provide higher wages for grocery employees.

Saskatchewan Federation of Labor (SFL) president Lori Johb last year accused the government of her province of hypocrisy for Grocery Heroes Day, according to Moose Jaw Today. Ms. Johb lambasted figures in the Saskatchewan government for applauding grocery workers for their pandemic performance while simultaneously refusing to implement paid sick leave, having the lowest minimum wage in Canada and failing to disburse federal pandemic funds meant to help keep low-wage workers afloat.  She also accused grocers of using profit windfalls from the pandemic to pay shareholders and executives rather than increase wages for frontline workers. And she noted that temporary benefits for available workers early on in the pandemic were, by that time, no longer available.

These criticisms are consistent with ones that emerged in the U.S. a few months into the pandemic. At that time the first wave of the pandemic had slowed in some parts of the country, and many of the highly publicized “hero bonuses” that retailers had given to frontline workers were ending, despite the danger of infection remaining for those workers.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should the U.S. grocery industry adopt its own version of a heroes day for frontline workers? How, if in any way, does an event like this affect how consumers perceive workers, how workers view themselves and how employers value employees?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"It is a little late to get traction on a U.S. Heroes Day. Without the high profile of the pandemic, many will wonder what it is all about. It will be ho-hum."
"I think that front-line workers would rather have better wages, benefits, working conditions and schedules than signage and photos."
"I love this initiative. It’s a great way to improve employee loyalty."

Join the Discussion!

5 Comments on "Are grocers giving frontline heroes their due?"


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Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Frontline workers are underestimated in many jobs. They deserve to be recognized by their employers and appreciated. But to call them heroes goes too far and dilutes the value of true heroes, like the person who jumps in front of a bullet to save a child, or risks his/her life to pull someone out of a fire, or falls on a grenade to save his platoon buddies.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

I think that front-line workers would rather have better wages, benefits, working conditions and schedules than signage and photos.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

It is a little late to get traction on a U.S. Heroes Day. Without the high profile of the pandemic, many will wonder what it is all about. It will be ho-hum.

That being said, it is fair to reiterate the complaints of Ms. Johb. Sadly, most of the difficult jobs faced during the pandemic were for the lowest paid and least appreciated part of the workforce. The appreciation for labor is sorely lacking in the population.

It is said that many front-line workers struggle with PTSD — my daughter will tell you that for those who work in hospitals there is plenty.

Oliver Guy
BrainTrust

Given all that front-line retail workers did during the pandemic and beyond this is very appropriate. I love this initiative. It’s a great way to improve employee loyalty. One thing that front-line workers have is the ability to solve problems for customers but also solve operational problems within the store itself. This is not always as well acknowledged as it should be so this is great to hear.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

The reaction to this is interesting because for once, someone called the bluff, if you will, of government –sanctioned virtue-signaling … or at least that’s one possible and arguably cynical interpretation. Another viewpoint, cynical it’s own way, would note this isn’t an “either/or” choice between hollow gestures and benefits, it’s an either/or between hollow gestures and…nothing.

As for the evaluating the concept (as opposed to commenting on opinions of it) I have mixed reactions: retail works are often under appreciated, but that’s true of many occupations, and while this might have made sense a year or two ago, saluting frontline workers today seems somewhat passé (even the term “frontline worker” feels like loaded language).

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"It is a little late to get traction on a U.S. Heroes Day. Without the high profile of the pandemic, many will wonder what it is all about. It will be ho-hum."
"I think that front-line workers would rather have better wages, benefits, working conditions and schedules than signage and photos."
"I love this initiative. It’s a great way to improve employee loyalty."

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