In our previous blog post, we wrote about the importance of keeping the food/essentials supply chains open. With hundreds of millions of Americans stuck at home, having a dependable source of food is essential to avoid panic and to stay the course on social distancing. That’s not optional.
We equally stressed the importance of the health and safety of the workers in the food supply chain. That’s also not optional. And it’s not just Walmart, or Amazon, or Kroger–it’s every company in the food supply chain that faces the same problem of workers in distribution centers or stores getting infected and potentially spreading it to their coworkers and customers.
Walmart and Amazon are understandably bearing the brunt of criticism, because of their size and their sophistication. Both companies are putting into place similar measures. Amazon is ramping up to do temperature checks of every employee at their entire U.S. and European operations network and Whole Foods Market stores by next week, and distributing millions of masks. Walmart is doing roughly the same thing, with the roll-out of fever checks taking somewhat longer.
But this is the moment of truth for Walmart, Amazon, and the rest of the food supply chain. As more is learned about the virus, the standard of care will evolve. These companies must move pro-actively as that happens, including reorganizing tasks to increase distance between workers and tightening screening of potentially ill workers.
Moreover, workers need to be compensated for their risk. Amazon says that “…we expect to go well beyond our initial $350 million investment in additional pay, and we will do so happily.”
The food supply chains must remain open. Workers must be protected and compensated. It’s not a choice.