The chain announced the bonuses in an internal company memo sent on Monday

By Morgan Raum
March 18, 2020 04:27 PM

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDCWHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

Amid the coronavirus crisis, many reports of long lines and empty shelves at bulk goods and grocery stores have appeared on social media and in the local news. Experts say that there is no need to panic shop for those who remain in good health, but shoppers have continued to stock up on water and food as they prepare to follow CDC recommendations to stay inside, and it’s resulted in “unprecedented” sales increases at stores like Trader Joe’s.

According to a Business Insider report, the grocery chain announced in an internal company memo on Monday that they are planning to pay them bonuses, as some workers are demanding “hazard pay.”

Trader Joe’s, which has more than 500 stores across 42 states, is planning to set up a “special bonus pool” for each store that will be divided equally among store employees based on their hours worked during the recent sales period, according to the report.

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Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

“We want to acknowledge the incredible hard work and dedication of our Crew Members in supporting each other and our communities by sharing the financial benefit of this sales increase with our store crew who have worked so hard during the past several weeks, and for as long as this challenge remains,” the memo said.

The announcement was sent one day after a petition addressed to Trader Joe’s and ALDI began circulating online. As of Thursday, it has garnered nearly 15,000 signatures and countless comments in the “Reasons for Signing” section.

In the petition, the “Trader Joe’s Union Coalition” demands hazard pay and guaranteed wages in case of store closures, especially as the company is “[raking] in millions of dollars amid the frenzy of people across the country filling…stores to stock up” and grocery workers are “at the frontlines of this global pandemic and [they] are terrified.”

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“We are exposing ourselves (and our loved ones) to COVID-19. We aren’t being paid for the extra work we’re doing or the risk we’re undertaking. We’re being told we can’t wear gloves. We are terrified,” the petition continued.

“We need our company to have our back by introducing hazard pay at the rate of time and a half, plus guaranteeing forced closure pay. Workers who are typically scheduled a certain number of hours per week need to be guaranteed that if their store closes, they will continue receiving pay equal to their average scheduled wages.”

In a statement to PEOPLE, a representative for Trader Joe’s said, “We see and hear from our customers every day how incredible and dedicated are Crew Members are in supporting each other and their communities, particularly during an unprecedented situation. Our Crew Members work hard to take care of our customers, so we want to do all that we can to take care of our Crew.  Giving bonuses right now is one more way for us to do that.”

The memo follows the company’s announcement yesterday that a crew member at one of Trader Joe’s locations in Seattle has tested positive for COVID-19. In a statement to their website, the company clarified that the employee was last present in the store on March 7, 2020. They wrote, “Upon confirming the diagnosis, we began working closely with the local health officials to take all necessary precautionary measures, including closing the store for thorough cleaning and sanitization.”

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They continued, “We’ve connected with all Crew Members at the location, encouraging anyone who may have been in contact to follow CDC-recommended self-monitoring guidelines and to call their healthcare providers right away if they develop any symptoms. While the store is closed, Trader Joe’s will be paying all Crew Members for their scheduled shifts. As soon as the store has been fully cleaned and restocked, we plan to reopen.”

As of March 17, there have been at least 7,048 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 116 deaths in the United States, according to The New York Times. The majority of the cases are in New York, Washington state, and California.

The CDC says the best prevention methods are basic forms of hygiene — careful hand washing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing, and staying home at signs of illness.

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