A report released Wednesday claims the wages Giant Eagle pays employees leave thousands in poverty and dependent on public assistance.
The study was issued by Keystone Research Center, a non-partisan think tank that promotes economic equity in Pennsylvania. Executive Director Steve Herzenberg said that for decades, Pittsburgh-based supermarket chain Giant Eagle did provide middle class careers to frontline workers.
“Giant Eagle’s starting wages went from near or above the Pennsylvania median wage in 1979, to roughly half of the median wage in 2017,” said Herzenberg. But Giant Eagle relies more on part-time workers now, he said, and more than 3,600 employees rely on Medicaid, food assistance or both.
According to the report, nearly half of Giant Eagle's full-time workers, and two-thirds of part-time workers, earned an annual wage below the federal poverty level of $25,100 for a family of four.
That includes full-time employee and disabled veteran, Michael Hughes, 52, who earns $9.15 an hour.
“I mean I love what I do, I love the job that I have, I just, I’m not making it,” Hughes said. “I make approximately $9 an hour, and I’m on welfare. When my paycheck comes this week, I get my VA check. I’m still borrowing money from my son to pay my bills.”
Advocates are calling on Giant Eagle to pay all workers a starting wage of $15 per hour.
According to Forbes Magazine, Giant Eagle ranks 31st on the list of “America’s Largest Private Companies.” The magazine cites the chain’s annual revenue as $9.3 billion.
In a statement, a representative from Giant Eagle said the company is still reviewing the report, and that their “retail positions provide appealing employment opportunities for folks from a wide variety of backgrounds.”
It also states that the company strives to provide competitive wages, and that many employees who are students or seniors prefer part-time work.