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New data released by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union shows that among the grocery workers it represents, 10,000 have been infected by or known to have been exposed to coronavirus, and 68 have died from it. At least 3,257 have been infected with the virus, the union estimated Friday.
UFCW represents workers in major grocery stores such as Kroger, Albertson’s and Supervalu. Union President Marc Perrone said at a news conference Wednesday that cases have increased by 200% in five weeks. This comes at a time when companies like Kroger ended the extra ‘heroin’ pay that it had given its workers.
“The so-called ‘hero’ and danger pay should continue until this threat has actually passed,” Perrone said. “If companies really believe this threat has passed, they should be willing to say it publicly.”
UFCW had several employees from Kroger, which is the largest grocery store chain in America, attended the press conference.
Kroger recently announced a plan to give its employees “Thanks for Paying” at $ 400 for qualified full-time employees and $ 200 for part-time employees. The special salary adds $ 130 million to the entire company.
Kris Holtham, who works as a meat manager for Kroger in Lansing, Mich., And has been employed by the company for 35 years, says it has become difficult to get customers to wear masks.
“Masks have become a political war,” Holtham said. “The employees are really scared and afraid to ask someone to put on a mask … I see hundreds of people a day without a mask. We are ducking the virus. “
Holtham told a story in which she asked a customer to put on a mask for the sake of the workers, and the customer replied, “I don’t give a damn about your health.”
Raquel Salorio has worked in Southern California grocery chain Ralph’s for 36 years and has a total of five people in her household working there. She dismissed the store’s marketing of its employees as “heroes” as unpleasant.
Salorio told one particular day when 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.”
NPR contacted representatives from Albertsons, Supervalu and Kroger to comment on the figures presented by the UFCW. An Albertsons spokesman said the company would not release the employee’s coronavirus numbers, but that the company “appreciates[s] The UFCW’s work on behalf of its membership to help everyone stay safe during this difficult time. “
Kroger and Supervalu have no answer.