Are grocers giving frontline heroes their due?
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.
- Industry support grows for Grocery Heroes Day – Globe Newswire
- OPINION: On ‘Grocery Heroes Day,’ workers deserve more than just words – Moosejaw Today
- Should grocers keep paying their associates like heroes? – RetailWire
- Celebrate Grocery Heroes Day July 19 – Grocery Heroes Day
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?