Wakefern, Cooper helping their vital workers during coronavirus crisis

By Eric Strauss
New Jersey | Mar 24, 2020 at 11:30 am

Even as some companies, like Walmart and CVS, shift into hiring mode to help combat the coronavirus crisis, others are doing what they can to help the employees they already have.

Wakefern Food Corp.

In the latest example, Keasbey-based grocery cooperative Wakefern Food Corp. announced a pair of programs for retail store associates — providing a temporary wage premium and enhanced sick and leave benefits.

Starting Sunday, associates will receive an extra $2 per hour, while an enhanced sick leave and attendance policy will help those with immediate financial and health concerns.

“Our associates have always been the heart and soul of our business and, in the wake of this current crisis, we want to thank them, and their family members that support them, for the incredible commitment they are showing to our customers,” Joe Colalillo, Wakefern’s chairman and CEO, said in a prepared statement. “They work tirelessly on the frontlines to provide an essential service to our communities; we hope these steps will assist them with their immediate financial and health concerns.”

The program would affect tens of thousands of workers in the New Jersey region, at supermarkets including ShopRite, the Fresh Grocer, Price Rite Marketplace and others. Wakefern is one of the largest employers in the state and region, with nearly 80,000 employees spread over eight states. The cooperative includes 51 family-owned businesses operating a total of 354 supermarkets.

With supermarkets considered essential retailers unaffected by the COVID-19 shutdown — and frequently swamped by customers stocking up on food and necessities — Wakefern is also hiring at its warehouses and stores in order to keep its markets fully staffed.

For more, go to the career centers for ShopRite, Price Rite and Wakefern.

Cooper University Health Care

Another organization at the eye of the storm, Camden-based Cooper University Health Care, is offering employees assistance of a different sort.

The Cooper Foundation announced it has established a COVID-19 Assistance Fund, which will enable members of the public to donate meals for health system workers, as well as make financial and Personal Protective Equipment donations to the system, and send thank-you notes to health professionals.

The fund was started with a pair of $10,000 contributions — one from Cooper board Chairman George Norcross III and his children, Lexie and Alex, and one from Cooper Foundation Chairman Philip Norcross and his wife, Carole.

“We are grateful that so many in our community have reached out to ask how they can assist Cooper doctors, nurses and front-line professionals as they care for patients during the COVID-19 outbreak,” George Norcross said in a statement. “We appreciate all of the messages of support, and this new fund will allow people to directly provide resources to help our front-line medical professionals.”

To contribute to the fund, click here. To donate PPE supplies, email COVID19Assistance@cooperhealth.edu.

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus:

Eric Strauss | estrauss@roi-nj.com | @acerimrat