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Grocery Workers Union Estimates 3,257 Members Are Infected With Coronavirus

Published Tuesday, June 2, 2020
by Austin Horn/National Public Radio
Grocery Workers Union Estimates 3,257 Members Are Infected With Coronavirus

New data released by the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union shows that among the Grocery Store Workers it represents, 10,000 have been infected by or are known to have been exposed to Coronavirus and 68 have died from it.

And at least 3,257 have been infected with the virus, the Union estimates.

UFCW represents Workers in large Grocery Store Chains like Kroger, Albertson's, and Supervalu. Union President Marc Perrone said during a recently-held news conference that the cases have increased by 200% in five weeks.

This comes at a time when companies such as Kroger ended the extra Hero Pay it had been giving its Workers.

"The so-called 'hero, and hazard pay should continue until this threat has actually passed,’" Perrone said. "If companies ‘truly believe’ this threat ‘has passed, they should be willing to say that publicly on the record.’"

The UFCW had numerous Employees from Kroger, which is the largest grocery store chain in America, attend the press conference.

Kroger recently announced a plan to give its Employees "Thank You Pay" of $400 for qualified Full-Time Workers and $200 for Part-Time Employees.

The special pay adds up $130 million company-wide.

Kris Holtham, who works as a Meat Manager for Kroger in Lansing, Michigan and has been employed by the company for 35 years, says that getting customers to wear masks has become difficult: "Masks have become a ‘political war.’  The Employees ‘are downright scared and afraid to ask someone to put on a mask.’  I see ‘hundreds of people a day without a mask.’  ‘We are sitting ducks for the virus.’"

Holtham recounted a story where she asked a customer to put on a mask for the sake of the Workers and the customer responded with: "I ‘don't give a damn about your health.’"

Raquel Salorio has worked for the Southern California Grocery Chain Ralph's for 36 years and has a total of five people in her household working there.

She decried the store's marketing of its Employees being "heroes" as disingenuous.

Salorio recounted a particular day where the company asked its workers to dress up as superheroes.  "We're ‘not’ heroes," Salorio said. "People are ‘suffering,’ people are ‘dying’ and they ‘want us to dress up as’ superheroes. ‘ Our jobs matter, but our health matters more.’"

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