Retailers

Kroger Backs UFCW's Call to Designate Grocery Workers as First Responders

Retailer joins call to request extended status for essential grocery employees
Photograph: Shutterstock

The Kroger Co. is the latest major retailer to lend its voice to the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International plea to federal and state lawmakers to designate grocery workers as “extended first responders” or “emergency personnel.”

Kroger’s advocacy of the UFCW’s quest to seek a temporary designation of “extended first responders” or “emergency personnel” for essential supermarket associates to ensure that they are prioritized for testing and provided personal protection equipment mirrors the support Albertsons Cos. issued to the union’s crusade last week.

In the absence of federal guidance for grocery stores—which continue as one of the few businesses to remain open during the COVID-19 outbreak—Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen and UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement: “Since the onset of this pandemic, Kroger family of companies 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.”

The joint statement went on to describe how Kroger and the UFCW—which is the nation’s largest private sector union and represents 1.3 million workers employed by grocery stores, meatpackers, food processors and other industries—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." 

“Given the significant daily risk these workers face, we are calling on all of our federal and state leaders to take immediate action. Specifically, we are requesting our nation’s leaders to assign a temporary designation of first responder or emergency personnel status for all grocery workers. Make no mistake, this designation is absolutely critical as it will ensure these front-line workers have priority access to personal protection equipment like masks and gloves," the statement continued. “This urgent call for temporary first responder 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. We urge our national and statewide elected leaders to act now and protect these essential workers.”

In related Kroger/COVID-19 news, the retailer’s first drive-thru coronavirus testing site in northern Kentucky is set to open this week, according to local media reports. The site, which is at Summit View Academy, 5006 Madison Pike, Independence, Ky., will be open beginning April 15.

Appointments are required for Kroger’s second drive-thru test site, for which it is teaming up with the state of Kentucky to administer nasal test swabs to local residents. The first test site opened April 13 at the Franklin County Fairgrounds, and both will be equipped to handle about 250 people a day.

Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve more than 11 million customers daily at variety of banners across the country.

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