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NGA Calls For Government Action On Labor Shortage

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The National Grocers Association 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.

“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,” NGA President and CEO Greg Ferrara wrote to Biden. “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.”

Throughout the pandemic, grocers have dealt with increased labor needs to accommodate historic levels of consumer demand and to implement labor-intensive public health protocols, Ferrara noted. “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,” Ferrara wrote.

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 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, 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 also was transmitted to Congress, the Department of Labor and governors who have the option of declining enhanced unemployment insurance funding. 

Complete text of the letter can be found here.

NGA is the national trade association representing the retail and wholesale grocers that comprise the independent sector of the food distribution industry. An independent retailer is a privately owned or controlled food retail company operating a variety of formats. The independent grocery sector is accountable for close to one percent of the nation’s overall economy and is responsible for generating $131 billion in sales, 944,000 jobs, $30 billion in wages and $27 billion in taxes. NGA members include retail and wholesale grocers, state grocers associations, as well as manufacturers and service suppliers.

NGA also recently applauded the Federal Reserve’s proposed changes to its requirements of debit card issuers to better protect merchants’ ability to route card-not-present debit transactions. See story, here.

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