Distancing: Kroger CEO's earnings rise as median worker pay slips

May 16, 2021, 10:03 AM

Here's a snapshot of corporate-style distancing: Kroger's chief executive got $22.4 million in compensation and benefits last year, the highest total since he became the supermarket chain's boss in 2014. Bloomberg puts it in perspective:

The package, disclosed Thursday in a regulatory filing, rose almost 6 percent from the prior year thanks to a bigger bonus, a larger package of stock awards and a salary increase. Pay for Kroger's median employee fell 8 percent to $24,617.


Rodney McMullen was born in Pineville, Ky., where his parents were factory workers. (Photo: The Kroger Co.)

The CEO, Rodney McMullen, ended Covid hazard pay increases of $2 an hour for front-line store and warehouse workers in spring 2020, just two months after the "Hero Bonus" began.

More recently, McMullen announced in early March that he national grocer "finished fiscal year 2020 with strong sales and earnings."

"I am incredibly humbled by the strength of our associates and what we continue to accomplish together. ... 

"Kroger continued to grow market share during the [fourth] quarter. Our ability to meet our customers' evolving needs is a testament to ... our associates' relentless focus on our customers."

Bloomberg news service, part of a Manhattan-based financial, software, data and media company, isn't exactly a progressive crusader for worker rights. Yet reporter Anders Melin puts the Kroger leader's $22-million compensation in this context:

McMullen, a Kroger lifer, is one of many CEOs who saw their pay jump last year even as the pandemic roiled the U.S. economy and drove millions into unemployment. ...

Precarious conditions for front-line workers led to calls for higher wages from unions, lawmakers and even President Joe Biden. ...

Cincinnati-based Kroger, which operates around 2,740 stores and employs 465,000 workers, said in March it plans to bring the average hourly wage to $16 an hour, from $15.50 — a 3-percent increase. Last April, it also gave full-time workers a $300 bonus and part-timers half that. The company says its average hourly wage rises to more than $20 when including benefits such as health care.

-- Alan Stamm

Read more:  Bloomberg

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