COVID-19 has killed roughly 30 grocery workers; thousands others exposed: Union

Union has asked that grocery workers be designated 'first responders' for access to protection equipment

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At least 30 food and grocery workers have died from the novel coronavirus, while almost 3,000 are showing signs of suffering from it, according to a recent union announcement.

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The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and Kroger asked state and federal officials on Tuesday to declare grocery store associates “emergency personnel” or “extended first responders” just one day after the union announced it had estimated at least 30 food workers had died from COVID-19, according to a pair of press releases.

“As all Americans are now witnessing – grocery workers play a critical role in our communities and they must be protected,” reads a joint statement from UFCW International President Marc Perrone and Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen.

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Perrone announced in an earlier press release the union had estimated at least 30 UFCW members had died from COVID-19, which has caused or contributed to the deaths of at least 26,059 total Americans to date, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine. The union also estimate that 3,000 union members had been “directly impacted.”

An employee pushes grocery carts outside a Kroger Co. grocery store in Louisville, Kentucky, on June 14, 2017. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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The UFCW, which represents more than 900,000 members, reached the COVID-19 death tolls and impact estimations using local UFCW reports, which provide details pertaining to union members who are symptomatic, have missed work because they’ve been self-quarantining, are waiting for their test results, have tested positive, or are hospitalized.

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The union also surveyed more than 5,000 members and determined that, of the respondent pool, 89 percent reported seeing customers who were not abiding by social distancing rules and 81 percent reported customers hoarding groceries, according to the release.

A worker restocks the meat section of a Stop & Shop supermarket on March 19, 2020, in North Providence, R.I. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

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“Grocery workers are deeply concerned. The fact is that this pandemic represents a clear and present danger to our nation’s food supply and all grocery store workers,” Perrone said Monday, while announcing a new safety campaign. “[M]embers of the public can take key safety steps to help protect these workers and each other from the coronavirus.”

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