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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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.”