Should Trader Joe’s have gone public with COVID-19 rates?
Last week, Trader Joe’s announced that 1,250, or 2.4 percent, of its 53,000 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 within the past eight months.
In light of recent media stories discussing the number of positive COVID-19 cases at grocers, Trader Joe’s said in a statement it believes “it is important to our Crew Members and customers to share and understand” what Trader Joe’s has experienced.
CNN reported last week on a university study that found 20 percent of 104 workers at an unidentified Boston grocer in May had tested positive. In late August, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) reported that, among its membership, 103 grocery workers had died from the virus and more than 14,300 have been infected or exposed.
Trader Joe’s said its infection rates in “virtually all areas are below the average rates of positive cases in each community where we have stores.”
- Ninety-five percent of Trader Joe’s associates who tested positive and completed quarantine had recovered and returned to work.
- Two associate deaths were traced to COVID-19.
Some of Trader Joe’s employees have attempted to unionize amid increasingly stressful (and in some cases, dangerous) work demands brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The grocer in late March faced calls for a boycott over risky working conditions amid a unionization effort, but hazard pay and in-store safety measures quieted the campaign.
Retailers for the most part are not publicizing COVID-19 infections of associates. Walmart is among those citing medical privacy laws for not disclosing such information. In May, The Washington Post reported on employees at more than 30 grocers who contended that their companies were failing to disclose infection numbers and deaths even internally to store associates.
Target recently said in a statement to the Minneapolis Star Tribune that its employees’ “cases rise and fall in line with national trends.” Management is alerting associates as part of its transparency efforts. Target said in a statement, “We’ll continue to be transparent with our team and share the steps we take after learning about a positive case.”
Amazon.com earned national headlines in early October after disclosing that nearly 20,000 employees, including those at Whole Foods, had tested positive or been presumed positive for the virus this year.
- Trader Joe’s Shares Information on Covid-19 Safety Practices and Positive Cases – Trader Joe’s
- Coronavirus Update: How Trader Joe’s is Caring for Crew Members and Customers – Trader Joe’s
- Trader Joe’s: 1,250 workers tested positive for COVID-19 – USA Today
- Grocery workers continue to be at a high risk from COVID-19 – RetailWire
- COVID-19 and healthcare workers: emerging patterns in Pamplona, Asia and Boston – National Center for Biotechnology Information
- America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Calls for Action to Prioritize Safety of Frontline Workers Essential to Food Supply Chain During COVID-19 – United Food and Commercial Workers
- Trader Joe’s and Wegmans satisfy, others falter, through the pandemic – RetailWire
- How transparent should grocers be about employees infected with COVID-19? – RetailWire
- Amazon says nearly 20,000 employees have caught the coronavirus – The Washington Post
- Rising COVID-19 cases heighten worker safety concerns for Minnesota retailers – Minneapolis Star Tribune
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Was Trader Joe’s decision to reveal its COVID-19 infection rates and deaths shrewd or excessive? Is such transparency less critical for customers than for store associates?