Grocery workers are essential — and feeling the strain

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Comic journalist Sarah Mirk checked in with grocery workers from across the country to hear more about their experiences during the pandemic and what they want to change.
Sarah Mirk for NPR

From produce clerks to personal shoppers to warehouse stockers, millions of grocery workers across the U.S. are keeping food on the shelves throughout this pandemic for those of us hunkering at home. Their work is essential — needed and valued — and yet, many say they don't feel safe.

Just this week, workers at Amazon and Instacart demanded better protections, including paid sick leave and ready access to personal protective supplies, such as hand sanitizer and wipes.

Visual journalist Sarah Mirk checked in with a sampling of grocery workers from across the nation to hear more about their experiences on the job in recent weeks and what they say needs to change.

Visual journalist Sarah Mirk checked in with grocery workers from across the country to hear more about their experiences during the pandemic and what they want to see change.
Sarah Mirk for NPR
Visual journalist Sarah Mirk checked in with grocery workers from across the country to hear more about their experiences during the pandemic and what they want to see change.
Sarah Mirk for NPR
Visual journalist Sarah Mirk checked in with grocery workers from across the country to hear more about their experiences during the pandemic and what they want to see change.
Sarah Mirk for NPR
Visual journalist Sarah Mirk checked in with grocery workers from across the country to hear more about their experiences during the pandemic and what they want to see change.
Sarah Mirk for NPR

Sarah Mirk is a visual journalist and the author of several books. She is a contributing editor of The Nib and a web producer for the Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news organization based in California.

Additional sources

Panel 5, "2.9 million grocery workers ... $11.54 an hour": U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Industry-Specific Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates. May 2019.

Panel 16, list of companies raising wages by $2/hour:

George Avalos. "Coronavirus: Supermarkets pay big raises for Safeway, Target, and other workers." San Jose Mercury News. March 23.

Stacy Fernandez. "Grocery workers are risking their health during the pandemic to keep stores open. They want better pay and protections." Texas Tribune. March 24, 2020.

Charisse Jones. "Walmart is the latest retailer to temporarily raise pay in response to the Coronavirus." USA Today. March 23.

Panel 17, quote from Vivek Sankaran:

"Albertsons Companies Announces Appreciation Pay for Front Line Associates." March 20.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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