Commentary

printed 02/05/2021

Legislation pending in the Maryland General Assembly that would require businesses to do more for employees who are working in dangerous circumstances would benefit from a reworking to reflect the reality of the situation.

Although there’s no denying that many people in the “essential workers” classification are risking their health to get the job done, some of the businesses that employ them might not have the wherewithal to meet the bills’ requirements.

In addition, the businesses these measures would affect range from Fortune 500 companies to smaller shops that are struggling just to keep people employed.

It is a shame that so many people don’t give a second thought to the welfare of grocery store workers, for instance, without whom we would all be in trouble. They deserve hazard pay, but whether they would actually get it is another matter.

Kroger, one of the world’s largest grocers, for instance, announced this week it will close two of its California stores permanently in April rather than pay the additional $4 an hour hazard pay imposed by local government. The company said the stores were struggling.

Overall, however, the company reported record profits during the pandemic, according to CBS news, and intends to direct a large part of that profit to investors.

A great many people think that stinks on a moral level, but that doesn’t change the fact that not only will the workers at these two stores not get hazardous duty pay, but they also won’t have jobs at all.

While we strongly encourage all businesses to do everything they can to care for the people who make their continued existence possible, it remains that not all companies think that way or have the resources to do more than what they are currently doing.

Legislators have to take these factors into consideration. The central argument here is not what’s right or wrong, but what will work best for everyone involved.

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