What it’s really like for Costco employees during the pandemic

As a business, Costco has been front and center of the COVID-19 pandemic even before it hit U.S. shores. We’re not likely to forget images of people lining up as they stocked up on essential items including toilet paper and non-perishable food items. And even though Costco is a perennial favorite with its members, can its employees say the same about the company they work for, especially in times like these?

In the middle of March, employees and contractors were quoted as saying that the retailer might actually be putting workers at risk, because company officials weren’t transparent on how confirmed cases were being handled, they were disregarding warnings about the pandemic, and they weren’t flexible at the time open-mindedness was needed. In short, management had left workers vulnerable and unprepared for what was to come (via BuzzFeed News).

“Working for Costco during this devastating point of time has become a living nightmare. They will continue to prioritize the needs of the business over their employees’ well-being, even when we are in a state of emergency. We were never prepared for this,” a Los Angeles–based warehouse employee had told BuzzFeed News.

Costco has raised salaries and made policy changes to protect employees and members

But things appear to have changed since the early days. In late March, Costco CEO Craig Jelinek told employees they would be getting paid an extra $2 an hour for time worked between March 2 to April 5, and that the money would be reflected in a lump sum paid on April 17 (via Business Insider). The company has announced operational changes that would protect both customers and workers by cutting its operational hours and promoting social distancing by limiting the number of persons on a membership card to two (via ABC). Physical safety measures will also be taken: plastic shields will be installed at registers, in line with action taken by the country’s supermarket chains, and workers will be given masks and gloves. The company has also sought to comply with federal guidelines which calls for employees’ temperatures to be monitored for any sign of abnormality. Corporate employees have also been given the opportunity to work remotely.

Perhaps the most important promise Costco management have made is to keep both staff (and customers) informed of developments as they arise, and to look after its stakeholders. After all, they owe it to the staff who have kept the business going and served the needs of its communities throughout the pandemic.

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