Grocers, Union Want Workers to be Designated as First Responders

Kroger and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the U.S. largest food and retail union, are calling on federal and state government to take swift action to designate associates at grocery stores as “extended first responders” or “emergency personnel.”

In a joint statement, the largest grocery chain in the U.S., and the UFWC stressed the significant daily risk the supermarket workers are facing and plead for immediate action.

“We are requesting our nation’s leaders to assign a temporary designation of first responders or emergency personnel status for all grocery workers. Make no mistake, this designation is absolutely critical as it will ensure these frontline workers have priority access to personal protection equipment like masks and gloves.”

Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen and UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in the statement that “working together, Kroger and the UFCW have already taken significant steps to keep Kroger associates safe and reward them for their incredible sacrifices throughout this ongoing crisis. The truth is more must be done, and it must be done now.”

Mc Mullen said since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Kroger associates, who are also members of the UFCW, have been working tirelessly to make sure that millions of American families have the fresh food and products they need. “As all Americans are now witnessing – grocery workers play a critical role in our communities and they must be protected.”

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The statement adds, “this urgent call for temporary first responders or emergency personnel status is not just about protecting grocery store workers; it is also about protecting the customers they serve and our nation’s food supply in general”.

Last week, UFCW did a similar joint call with Albertsons, the second-largest supermarket chain that also runs Safeway, Acme, Vons and other stores.

Working with Kroger and Safeway/Albertsons, UFCW secured new protective measures for 710,000 grocery workers across the country who work at these stores.

According to UFCW, several states have taken measures to ensure grocery store workers have access to similar benefits and protections as first responders.

Grocery store workers have access to emergency childcare in Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York. Governors in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have issued executive orders to ensure grocery stores are safer workplaces.