Alina Selyukh | New Hampshire Public Radio

Alina Selyukh

Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.

Before joining NPR in October 2015, Selyukh spent five years at Reuters, where she covered tech, telecom and cybersecurity policy, campaign finance during the 2012 election cycle, health care policy and the Food and Drug Administration, and a bit of financial markets and IPOs.

Selyukh began her career in journalism at age 13, freelancing for a local television station and several newspapers in her home town of Samara in Russia. She has since reported for CNN in Moscow, ABC News in Nebraska, and NationalJournal.com in Washington, D.C. At her alma mater, Selyukh also helped in the production of a documentary for NET Television, Nebraska's PBS station.

She received a bachelor's degree in broadcasting, news-editorial and political science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

A strange thing happened this spring.

As co-workers began to get sick, essential worker Yudelka LaVigna took an unpaid leave of absence. When she got her unemployment benefits, she realized something unheard of: She was making more money not working.

"That just kind of opens your eyes," says LaVigna, who's now back at her New York call center job for essential services.

Updated at 3:49 p.m. ET

Aunt Jemima will change its name and logo, acknowledging the brand's origins rooted in a racial stereotype, which hearkens back to nostalgia for the South in the times of slavery.

Toward the end of 2020, the 130-year-old pancake and syrup brand will remove the image of "Aunt Jemima" from packaging, parent companies Quaker Foods and PepsiCo said on Wednesday. The name change will follow.

Updated at 4:53 p.m. ET

As more states and cities allowed restaurants and shopping centers to reopen, U.S. retail spending swung big in May, climbing 17.7%, the U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday. Major stock indexes rose after the report was released.

Updated at 4:53 p.m. ET

As more states and cities allowed restaurants and shopping centers to reopen, U.S. retail spending swung big in May, climbing 17.7%, the U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday. Major stock indexes rose after the report was released.

Giving someone a facial is one of the more intimate jobs out there: leaning over someone else's face, treating it, massaging it.

"To be totally honest, a lot's going to have to happen for me to feel comfortable giving facials in person," says Hawaii-based facialist Nicole Burke Stephenson. "I'm questioning whether or not I'll ever use a steamer again because it blows people's breath into my face."

Hero pay. Thank You pay. Service pay. Hazard pay.

These were the many names for temporary pay bumps that some stores, warehouses and factories gave to workers who risked their health to continue to show up on the job during the pandemic.

It's hard to say that an extra $3 an hour made a dramatic difference in Sammy Сonde's budget. Maybe a few more groceries — soup is a dinner favorite — or an occasional treat of a takeout meal after a particularly tiring workday.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Hero pay, thank you pay, service pay - we are talking temporary pay bumps that some retailers and food companies have been giving their workers during the pandemic. Many are going away this month at a time when some workers feel their risks are only increasing. NPR's Alina Selyukh reports.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: It's hard to say that extra $3 an hour for working in a pandemic made a dramatic difference in Sammy Conde's budget.

Macy's losses during the coronavirus pandemic might mount to $1.1 billion in its first quarter. The company's warning Thursday is the latest highlight of a widening gap in retail between big sales of "essential" stores that remained open during the health crisis versus clothing and other "nonessential stores" that had to close.

The preliminary earnings report from Macy's echoed the pain felt at many other department stores and retail chains revealed in the first wave of financial disclosures since the pandemic began.

As the largest retail chain that remained open during the coronavirus pandemic, Walmart became a huge draw for shoppers. Its sales skyrocketed both in stores and online as people stocked up on food and necessities, as well as supplies to work out, teach, play and work from home.

The retailer says it hired a whopping 235,000 new workers during the health crisis to keep up with big demand at stores and warehouses.

As Target remained open during the coronavirus pandemic, the surge in demand online and in stores made an average April day comparable to a peak holiday-season Cyber Monday sale.

In its 118-year history, J.C. Penney has gone from a Wyoming-based dry-goods store to being a key pillar of the American mall.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Updated at 9:31 a.m. ET

In a historic collapse, retail spending in the United States nosedived again last month, dropping a record 16.4% as people avoided restaurants, bars, stores and malls during the coronavirus pandemic.

Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus has become the first department store chain to declare bankruptcy during the coronavirus pandemic. Its fall is foreboding to other chains, whose financial distress predates the health crisis, such as J.C. Penney.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Amazon warehouse employees had been able to take unlimited unpaid time off during the coronavirus pandemic. But starting May 1, Amazon will instead ask workers who want to stay home to use their regular accrued time off or request a leave of absence.

Amazon warehouse workers are staging a nationwide protest against the company, an action that could be the largest yet targeting Amazon's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Searching for work right out of college is always hard. Now try doing that in the middle of a worldwide pandemic and an economic meltdown.

Many students have lost income: jobs on campus or around town. They've lost internships, which help them build resumes. Now they are entering the workforce at a time when 22 million are filing for unemployment.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says "vastly more" COVID-19 testing is needed for the U.S. economy to reopen, while his company is building its own lab to potentially begin its own testing of all workers.

"We have begun assembling the equipment we need to build our first lab and hope to start testing small numbers of our frontline employees soon," Bezos wrote in a letter Thursday to the shareholders.

Kroger, the largest U.S. grocery chain, has teamed up with the largest U.S. retail and food workers union in urging national and state officials to designate grocery employees as "extended first responders" or "emergency personnel."

The goal is for grocery workers to get a higher priority for COVID-19 testing and access to safety gear like masks and gloves and other protections. Stores have struggled particularly to access a steady supply of masks, which are in shortage. Health workers and other first responders are also desperate to get them.

Amazon is putting new grocery-delivery customers on a waitlist — among several new measures the retailer is trying to keep up with a crush of demand for food deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company also announced plans to expand its hiring by 75,000 full- and part-time jobs. That's in addition to the 100,000 workers Amazon added in recent weeks.

Some runners are are still jogging outside, while others are posting joke videos about sprinting in place on soapy floors. Weightlifters are filling bags with canned goods and shoulder-pressing milk jugs. But what's a swimmer to do?

"Yeah, it's difficult. They call them dryland exercises," says Lauren Anneberg, a volunteer coach at the Capital YTri triathlon team in Washington, D.C.

Two employees of one Walmart store in the Chicago area have died after contracting the coronavirus. The company did not specify the timing of their illnesses, but said the store remains open after passing "necessary inspections" last week.

Walmart on Saturday will begin limiting how many people are allowed inside its stores at one time, reducing its capacity to roughly 20%, as a way to enforce social distancing.

The retail giant joins Target, Costo and other supermarket chains in deciding to count and restrict the number of visitors to keep shoppers at least six feet apart — from each other and from the workers — hoping to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Walmart plans to start checking workers' temperatures as they clock in and to offer them gloves and masks, the company said on Tuesday as it announced a series of new measures to safeguard against the coronavirus.

Updated at 3:24 p.m. ET

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has ordered the city's human rights commissioner to investigate Amazon over the firing of a warehouse employee who helped organize a worker walkout on Monday. The order, announced on Tuesday, follows the call from New York state's attorney general for a federal labor investigation into the firing.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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