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Grocery workers say COVID-19 has begun spreading more quickly

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Grocery workers say COVID-19 has begun spreading more quickly

Grocery store workers are facing a greater risk of getting COVID-19 now than they were 60 days ago, according to the union that represents 1.3 million food workers in the US.

Altogether, nearly 400 food service workers have died from the virus and 77,600 have been infected or exposed to COVID-19 since the pandemic started, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

The start to 2021 has brought fresh worries for the industry.

Nearly 130 grocery workers in Southern California have been infected this year, UCFW President Marc Perrone said, while 500 grocery workers in Houston have been infected since Christmas and 200 grocery workers at a single Costco store in Washington State tested positive.

The UFCW said Tuesday the speed at which the virus is spreading in the food industry has increased in 2021 due to spread of the more infectious variant forms of the virus.

“The threat of this virus is now worse than it ever has been before,” Perrone said during a press conference on Tuesday.

The increase in infections has brought back calls for so-called hazard pay — which amounts to about $4 per hour extra — and for greater access to vaccines. Only 13 states, including California, New York and Arizona are giving grocery workers access to the vaccines.

Hazard pay became a flashpoint this month when Kroger said it would close two stores in Long Beach, Calif. after the City Council passed legislation requiring grocery stores to hike hourly pay by $4.

Since then a number of other municipalities, including Los Angeles and Seattle and some 10 states, including New York, Maryland, Virginia and Tennessee have passed similar legislation, the UFCW said. Some national chains, including Trader Joe’s, responded by voluntarily hiking its hourly pay by $4 on a temporary basis.

Kroger ended hazard pay in May, but has given out bonuses and $100 gift cards to employees instead. Kroger has also argued that some of the hazard pay mandates are unfairly targeting grocery stores and provide exemptions for big box retailers like Walmart.

“The Kroger store I work for has doubled or tripled its business since the pandemic,” said Eric Nelson, a Kroger store employee in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Kroger used to call us heroes but we are not treated like that anymore,” Nelson said, adding that his risk of getting the virus is especially dangerous since he suffers from congestive heart failure.

Kroger did not immediately respond for comment, but officials said earlier this month in response to the store closure announcements that the two stores were “underperforming” and that the City Council mandates were “oversteps.” 

Other food workers who spoke during the press conference emphasized the dire need for them to get vaccines more quickly. 

According to a UFCW survey of its members, of which 4,000 responded, 57 percent are more concerned about getting the virus than they were 30 or 60 days ago, Perrone said.

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AT&T execs roll their eyes as Elliott Management takes victory lap on $43B merger

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AT&T execs roll their eyes as Elliott Management takes victory lap on $43B merger

Some higher ups at AT&T aren’t too happy about billionaire Paul Singer’s hedge fund’s response to their $43 billion media merger on Monday.

“Elliott Management is taking a victory lap even though they had nothing to do with getting this deal done” one AT&T insider griped to The Post about AT&T’s plans to combine its WarnerMedia entertainment unit with media giant Discovery.

Elliott took a $3.2 billion stake in AT&T in September 2019, calling in a letter for “improved strategic focus” and “enhanced leadership.” But the hedge fund’s execs weren’t in the room when negotiations to were taking place, according to sources close to the situation.

That didn’t stop Elliott executive Jesse Cohn from tweeting about the deal on Monday in a way that rubbed some insiders the wrong way.

“@ATT has now executed on its promise to streamline operations and re-focus on its core businesses,” Cohn said in a tweet about what he called AT&T’s “transformational year.”

A source close to Elliott Management fired back by doubling down on the notion that the deal was the result of the hedge fund’s activism. “AT&T wouldn’t have completed the deal if we hadn’t put out that letter,” this person said. “There’s not even a debate that Elliott provided cover for John (Stankey) to make the necessary changes.”

Stankey took the reins from Randall Stephenson in April 2020 in what presumably was a step towards “enhanced leadership.”

Another Elliott insider, however, emphasized the now-collegial relationship between the hedge fund and AT&T. “Stankey saw things the way we did,” this person said. “This is a feel-good story.”

“It’s puzzling a statement in which Jesse (Cohn) gives credit to John (Stankey) is being considered a victory lap.”

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Goldman taps former Uber executive to lead its consumer bank

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Goldman taps former Uber executive to lead its consumer bank

Goldman Sachs has tapped a former Uber executive to lead its fledgling consumer banking division, whose retail lending arm Marcus has seen heavy turnover since its launch.

Peeyush Nahar, who at Uber had overseen teams that developed software for payments, insurance and other fintech, has joined the Wall Street giant as a partner and global head of its consumer business. He will report to Stephanie Cohen, Goldman’s global co-head of consumer and wealth management.

Earlier this year, Goldman’s former head of consumer banking Omer Ismail and one of his top deputies, David Stark, left to run a new fintech startup at Walmart. On Friday, Goldman announced it was losing another member of Marcus — chief financial officer Sherry Ann Mohan, who is leaving for JPMorgan.

Amid the flight of financiers, Goldman is trying to shore up the consumer division that launched in 2016. Over the past few months it has brought on three new executives. Brian King, a former Goldman executive who left for a brief stint at Wells Fargo, is now chief risk officer. Swati Bhatia joined from payment technology company Stripe as head of proprietary business. Robert Cochran has joined as digital product lead at the division.

Before the pandemic, Goldman set a goal of lending $20 billion and maintaining $125 billion in deposits by 2024. As of March, Marcus has $8 billion in loans and $100 billion in deposits.

Before his stint at Uber, Nahar spent 14 years at Amazon where he focused on lending and machine learning.

“Peeyush will lead the business in its next phase of growth, helping drive forward our commitment to our customers and make us the place they go to manage their finances,” Goldman said in a statement.

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World Economic Forum cancels 2021 Singapore event amid pandemic

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World Economic Forum cancels 2021 Singapore event amid pandemic

World Economic Forum organizers say they have decided to cancel their annual gathering — usually held in Davos, Switzerland each year — this year amid concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After multiple attempts to find a proper date and venue, most recently settling on hopes to hold it in Singapore in August, the forum’s organizers said in a statement Monday that it won’t go ahead with the meeting, largely citing the impact of the coronavirus.

“Regretfully, the tragic circumstances unfolding across geographies, an uncertain travel outlook, differing speeds of vaccination rollout and the uncertainty around new variants combine to make it impossible to realize a global meeting with business, government and civil society leaders from all over the world at the scale which was planned,” the forum said.

Forum founder Klaus Schwab called it a “difficult decision” … “but ultimately the health and safety of everyone concerned is our highest priority.”

The forum’s next annual gathering will be in the first half of next year, with the final date and location to be determined, organizers said.

The elite gathering typically draws hundreds of well-known government leaders, business executives, civil society advocates and artists, actors and musicians.

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