Grocery chain fights for coronavirus reclassification to make workers first responders

Albertsons, owner of Safeway, ACME and more, wants store employees to receive extra protection during COVID-19

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As the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S., grocery workers at Albertsons chain stores want to be classified as first responders, according to a Tuesday press release.

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(Albertsons)

The company has teamed up with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which is the largest food services labor union in the country, to achieve this reclassification effort.

Albertsons, which is the parent company of regional supermarket chains such as ACME, Pavilions, Safeway, Star Market and Vons, announced its partnership with the major union to “seek a temporary designation of ‘extended first responders’ or ‘emergency personnel’ for supermarket associates.”

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If successful, the reclassification would prioritize essential grocery store workers for testing and protective gear like medical face masks and gloves.

The UFCW has about 1.3 million members across the U.S. and Canada. The union’s president, Marc Perrone, issued a joint statement with Albertsons Companies President and CEO Vivek Sankaran, which commended grocery store workers for “sacrificing every day to protect our nation’s food supply.”

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“This joint action is an example of how all Americans must work together to protect everyone working on the frontlines,” the executives' statement continued. “This includes not only our brave first responders and healthcare workers but also associates at our nation’s grocery stores who are providing communities with the essential food and supplies needed to weather this public health crisis.”

Some states such as Minnesota and Vermont have classified grocery store employees as emergency workers and have offered benefits such as free child care during the pandemic.

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Prior to the union team-up, Albertsons stores began installing protective shields around pharmacy counters and checkout areas in addition to social distancing markers, according to a FOX News report last month.

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