Grocery store shortages appear to be reoccurring as the omicron variant piles onto supply chain difficulties and labor shortages. Shoppers reminisce the grocery store panic. (Clarissa Arceo)
Grocery store shortages appear to be reoccurring as the omicron variant piles onto supply chain difficulties and labor shortages. Shoppers reminisce the grocery store panic.

Clarissa Arceo

Empty grocery shelves are back

January 19, 2022

Shelves across the country are being emptied out and struggle to restock. The shortage in essential workers ranging from truck drivers to grocery store associates continues to fuel the crisis found in supermarkets across the country.

Discussions on various Facebook groups in the 562 area prevail as users debate on whether this shortage is due to mass hysteria among the surge of the Omicron variant in preparation for a second lock down, or the shortage in employees running these stores.

Albertson’s shelves in Downey, CA. (Clarissa Arceo)

“It seems as though there is only a shortage of certain products,” Facebook user Maria Buenrostro wrote on a discussion post in Positively Downey. “I think it might be due to employees calling in sick. This omicron is spreading like wildfire!”

Causes behind the empty shelves are noticeable when visiting your local Ralph’s or Walmart for grocery runs. A record number of 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in November 2021, according to the Job Opening and Labor Turnover Summary by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As the Omicron variant rises in cases, more employees are either quitting their jobs or calling off due to positive COVID-19 tests or due to exposure by family and friends.

Current Walmart employee Sergio Acevedo shared that while COVID-19 conditions make labor stressful, customers make it more difficult. “Sometimes we get so short-staffed that our lunches get cut short and our breaks are pushed back,” he said. “Customers will yell at us for things that are out of our control and what they don’t understand is that employees are hired to work certain departments and spots that we aren’t supposed to move from, so some things cannot be helped.”

Albertson's in Downey, CA.
Holes in local grocery store shelves have shoppers wondering if panic buying has returned. Grocery store associates say low stock is due to the omicron variant affecting labor shortages and supply chain. Photo credit: Clarissa Arceo

Acevedo later added that as an essential employee, he is unknowingly exposed to hundreds of people everyday who could potentially be carrying the virus. He said, “You’d be surprised at how unsafe and unsanitary customers can be. Each day we struggle between keeping our store clean and doing our best to help customers throughout the store while keeping ourselves safe.”

Lisa Canales, a current Ralph’s employee, wrote in a discussion post on Facebook that much of the issue with her store’s empty shelves has to do with shipments being cut or delayed. “This dilemma has been an ongoing issue since the pandemic started,” she stated.

The National Grocers Association said that many stores currently operate at less than 50 percent of their usual workforce capacity.

As unemployment rates surface back to pre-pandemic levels, the trucking industry experiences a shortage in an estimated 80,000 truck drivers as reported by the American Trucking Association.

Employees quitting their jobs, retiring and calling off sick leaves trucking companies desperate for workers promoting labor to younger audiences.

With the Omicron variant cases rising by the day and reaching its peak, there’s no telling when this shortage will come to a stop.

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