A line forms outside of the Walmart in Quincy, MA on April 4, 2020 as the store implements new restrictions on capacity during the coronavirus pandemic. People wait outside wearing masks and distanced apart.
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Walmart said Thursday it will pay another pandemic-related bonus to hourly employees and extend its Covid-19 emergency leave policy to July as the U.S. hits records for coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations.
It marks the fourth time since the spring that the discounter has paid special bonuses to workers who have helped stock shelves, ship online orders, transport goods and serve customers during the pandemic. Full-time hourly employees will receive $300 and part-time and temporary employees will get $150 on Dec. 24.
With the latest bonus, Walmart will have paid a total of $2.8 billion in quarterly and special bonuses to its hourly employees. It has quarterly bonuses for employees that pre-dated the pandemic. The company has about 1.5 million Walmart and Sam’s Club workers who are eligible for the special pay.
“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 John Furner, president and CEO of Walmart U.S.
The coronavirus pandemic has intensified across the country. More than 100,000 people are currently in hospitals across the U.S. sick with Covid-19, an all-time high. Public health officials have warned hospitalizations and deaths could rise even further after Thanksgiving and as some people gather indoors during the winter.
On Wednesday, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that the next few months of the pandemic will be among “the most difficult in the public health history of this nation.“
For grocery store workers, the outbreaks in small towns and cities across the U.S. mean they face higher risk to their health and the health of their families when they go to work each day. A major grocery union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and its members recently called for all grocery workers to get “hazard pay” — higher hourly pay that compensates them for that additional risk.
More than 48,000 members have gotten sick or been exposed to Covid-19 and at least 350 members have died from Covid-19 as of late November, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which also represents workers at meatpacking plants and nursing homes.
That does not include workers at non-union retail giants Amazon and Walmart who have gotten sick or died from Covid-19.
Walmart has has hired more than half a million employees across its stores, clubs and supply chain since March. The company said more than 20% of those employees have moved into permanent positions. The hiring spree has helped Walmart keep up as sales of merchandise from paper towels to bicycles have spiked — especially on its website.