Dancy is a front-end supervisor overseeing the store’s cash registers, self-checkout kiosks, customer service and liquor departments. In late December he worked 11 straight days because of staffing shortages caused by the spread of the highly-contagious Covid-19 variant.
Now the rapid spread of Omicron is putting new pressure on essential workers already worn down after nearly two years working through a deadly pandemic. But, unlike millions of office workers, they can’t stay home and make a living.
Staffing at the store where Dancy works is at its worst level since the pandemic, lower even than during the first wave in March 2020, said the 62-year-old shop steward for the local United Food and Commercial Workers union. Employees have quit in recent months and management has not replaced them, he added. The store has had to close early on some days because of staffing constraints.
The latest surge of workers calling out sick adds extra responsibilities for Dancy and the employees who have to keep shelves stocked, help customers and complete other tasks. Some customers also shop without a mask, making him feel unsafe.
“Every day has been a struggle,” Dancy said. “I feel like I’m overexerting myself. I’m constantly tired.”
Two weeks ago, he worked on a crowded Sunday when the store was short staffed. It “was the first time in 30 years I thought ‘I don’t know much longer I can and want to do this.'”
A spokesperson for QFC, which is owned by Kroger (, said in an email that the chain offers workers comprehensive benefit packages, including an average hourly wage of $18.72. QFC, with around 60 stores, is also actively hiring. QFC said it works closely with health officials to create a safe working and shopping environment and slow the spread of Covid-19. )
Can’t stay home
The demographics of the more than 30 million frontline essential workers differ significantly from those who can work remotely.
Around 29% of White workers are able to work from home, according to an Economic Policy Institute study in 2020. But fewer than one in five Black workers and roughly one in six Hispanic workers can work from home.Frontline industries are staffed disproportionately by women and people of color, and they are overrepresented in many jobs within those industries, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research report in 2020.
For example, women, who make up 47.4% of the nation’s overall workforce, account for 50.5% of the nearly seven million grocery workers. Black people represent 11.9% of the workforce, but account for 14.2% of grocery employees.
The latest Covid-19 surge has caused many workers to get sick while others are calling out because their child care plans are in flux as …….