The National Grocers Association (NGA) has sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging his administration to advance policies that encourage unemployed Americans to seek work and provide resources to businesses in need of help due to labor shortage.
Throughout the pandemic, grocers have dealt with increased labor needs to accommodate historic consumer demand levels and implement labor-intensive public health protocols.
“Given these challenges, the industry has responded by increasing employee pay, providing additional overtime opportunities, and offering bonuses. Despite these efforts, the industry is at a crisis point in its struggle to find qualified employees and keep grocery stores operational for hungry consumers,” NGA President and CEO Greg Ferrara wrote to President Biden.
“Congress, governors, and the administration must focus its efforts on fixing the broken unemployment insurance program to ensure the system does not discourage recipients from finding work,” Ferrara wrote, addressing the labor shortage. “While unemployed Americans certainly need a safety net as they try to get back on their feet, the benefits of combined unemployment and stimulus policies should not meet or exceed prior compensation, or businesses will be competing with the government for labor.”
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In a recent NGA member survey, 100 percent of respondents reported workforce and labor access challenges, with problems becoming significantly more acute in the last two months since President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan.
The NGA Foundation’s online career center (grocerycareer.org) has expanded efforts to help address recruiting needs in the industry and reduce labor shortages, including recruitment ads, shared information on job fairs and hiring initiatives, and providing services to job seekers such as resume writing and interview tips.
“Although these efforts have led to some modest improvements, we need the support of our federal and state government officials to make solving this problem as urgent of a priority as we are,” Ferrara wrote. “It is simply impossible for grocers who exist on razor-thin profit margins to compete for work when the government is paying workers to stay home.”
In addition to the White House, the letter about labor shortage also was transmitted to Congress, the Department of Labor, and governors who have the option of declining enhanced unemployment insurance funding.