Jul 13, 2022 - Economy

Retailers fret over worker safety

Illustration of Benjamin Franklin in a safety vest.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Challenges that service and retail workers face haven’t lessened since the start of the pandemic.

Why it matters: Leisure and food firms are still mostly short of staff, and are scrambling to support the employees they have. They're also adjusting where and how they operate when they feel like they can’t. 

Driving the news: Starbucks says it’s planning to close 16 stores by the end of July due to concerns about worker safety, and introduce new active shooter training.

  • Walmart in May launched a new training program to help store workers identify and respond to people who may be struggling with mental health amid post-pandemic uncertainty.

Details: Starbucks is introducing active shooter training for its store workers because of the recent rise in gun violence, AJ Jones II, senior vice president of global communications and public affairs, tells Axios.

  • The training was not added in response to an increase in people coming into stores with guns, he added.
  • "We have to think about what's best for our partners to keep them safe and to think through active shooter scenarios ... That is something that definitely has become a new reality for our partners."

The big picture: Unruly customers and fear of getting COVID drove service workers out of the industry. 

  • Those who returned or remain have been banding together to pressure companies into better working conditions, through new unionization efforts

The bottom line: The pandemic — along with the problems it's caused — seems far from over.

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