Grocery workers, mostly left off vaccine lists and without hazard pay, are feeling forgotten.

The race to distribute vaccines and the emergence of more contagious variants of the coronavirus have put a renewed spotlight on the plight of grocery workers in the United States.

The industry has boomed in the past year as Americans have stayed home and avoided restaurants. But in most cases, that has not translated into extra pay for its workers, Sapna Maheshwari and Michael Corkery report for The New York Times. After Long Beach, Calif., mandated hazard pay for grocery workers, the grocery giant Kroger responded last week by saying it would close two locations.

And now, even as experts warn people to minimize time spent in grocery stores because of new coronavirus variants, The Times found only 13 states that had started specifically vaccinating those workers.

“Kroger is sending a message, more than anything else,” said Andrea Zinder, president of Local 324 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents about 160 employees at the two stores. “They are trying to intimidate workers and communities: If you pass these types of ordinances, there will be consequences.”

Kroger, which operates about 2,750 stores, has attracted particular attention because it pursued stock buybacks last year and because its chief executive, Rodney McMullen, earned more than $20 million in 2019. The median compensation of a Kroger employee that year was $26,790, or a ratio of 789 to 1, according to company filings.

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