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These Companies Are Calling Bernie Sanders' Bluff by Hiring During Coronapocalypse

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., participates in a Democratic presidential primary debate at CNN Studios in Washington, Sunday, March 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Even amid the throes of the coronavirus crisis, with Americans either at home or practicing heavy social distancing, many companies are looking to hire. Many essential businesses, like grocery stores and delivery companies, need more workers to meet demand. Many other companies have transitioned to telework, and some telework companies may also be hiring. This is politically important because Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) fought for a provision in the $2 trillion stimulus bill that disincentivizes furloughed workers from looking for a new job.

Marketwatch has tallied 440,000 job openings.

This tally includes the 150,000 new workers Walmart announced it would hire. The retailer announced it would give full-time employees who are paid hourly a bonus of $300 each, and part-time hourly employees $150. Amazon announced plans to hire 100,000 new employees to meet the rising demand for e-commerce orders and deliveries. Amazon and Walmart will hire most of these workers through April, but many may stay longer or permanently.

CVS Health plans to fire 50,000 more full-time, part-time, and temporary employees. The company aims to hire many workers who have been furloughed from hotel chains.

Albertsons, Kroger, and Trader Joe’s have also either increased hiring or offered bonuses to current employees, while Lowe’s announced it is looking to fill 30,000 permanent and temporary job openings. 7-Eleven announced it would hire as many as 20,000 employees. Albertsons, which owns Safeway and Acme, will hire 30,000 new associates. Kroger has announced it is hiring 20,000 new associates, after hiring 23,500 workers the week before. Trader Joe’s is paying bonuses to current employees but would not put a number on new hires.

Delivery companies are also hiring. Pizza Hut plans to hire 30,000 permanent employees, while Papa John’s announced it would hire 20,000 workers immediately. Hungry Howie’s, a Detroit-based pizza chain that has spread to 21 states, has 2,000 permanent delivery driver openings — jobs that can make up to $15 per hour. Blue Apron, which delivers meal kits to homes, announced it is also hiring.

Some internet companies are also hiring. Dane Jasper, CEO of the Northern California-based internet provider Sonic, said he would likely be hiring an additional 15 employees a month to join his 520-person team.

According to Seeking Alpha, Pepsi is looking to hire 15,000 additional workers, while Dollar General is seeking 143,000, and Oreo is looking to hire 1,000.

These hirings sound like small potatoes compared to the 3.3 million Americans who filed for unemployment benefits this past week, but they are politically significant.

During the wrangling over the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill that President Donald Trump signed on Friday, four Republican senators voiced concerns about adding an extra $600 per week on top of their unemployment paychecks. The senators warned that this extra payment would provide a perverse incentive, encouraging furloughed employees not to find a new job during the crisis.

Bernie Sanders condemned their concerns as “anti-worker,” but with companies looking to hire at least 440,000 workers, it seems the Republicans were right to voice concerns.

“The American people do not think you should get paid more money to not work than to work, and the American people understand the stated purposes of this bill are to maintain the employer-employee relationship,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) insisted. “If we do something now that says the new baseline American assumption is the government should say … we want people to get more money to not work than to work, the American people do not want that to happen.”

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.) joined Sasse in voicing these concerns.

While most Americans who find themselves unemployed may not be able to find a job until the coronavirus crisis is over, roughly one-sixth of them should be able to find an opportunity. If they’re making more money on unemployment than they would be on the job, that’s a serious problem — it makes it much harder for Albertons, Amazon, CVS Health, Hungry Howie’s, Kroger, Lowe’s, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, Walmart, 7-Eleven, and any other company that needs to expand to fit crisis-related demand to actually find available workers.

Democrats argue that the extra $600 per week is essential to help workers, and many Democrats add that they don’t want Americans to have to find new jobs in the midst of a crisis. That sounds very charitable and noble, but these companies have called the Democrats’ bluff. There are hundreds of thousands of jobs that need to be filled, and the Democrats just defended a measure that disincentivizes employment.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.