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Albertsons, union push to classify workers as first responders, giving them priority for testing and PPE

Tamarack Summer
COVID-19 Idaho

Albertsons Companies and United Food and Commercial Workers Union asked government officials to classify grocery workers as first responders.

The union and Boise-based grocery giant said they wanted a temporary designation of ‘extended first responders’ or ’emergency personnel.’ The goal would ensure grocery workers saw prioritized testing and access to personal protection equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

[Q&A with Albertsons: Worker safety, hiring furloughed workers, COVID precautions – and when the TP might return]

Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran and UFCW International President Marc Perrone released a joint statement:

“Since the onset of this pandemic, associates in Albertsons Companies stores… have been working tirelessly to make sure that America’s families have the food and groceries they need. These men and women are sacrificing every day to protect our nation’s food supply, and now is the time for our leaders in state and federal governments to do the same for them.”

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The company and union took out a full-page ad in the New York Times this week to push the effort.

Latest step

According to Albertsons, some states took steps to give grocery workers similar benefits and protections as first responders. Idaho is not one of those states.

“The temporary designation of first responder or emergency personnel status would help ensure these incredible grocery workers access to priority testing, have access to personal protection equipment, like masks and gloves, as well other workplace protections necessary to keep themselves and the customers they serve safe and healthy,” they said in the statement.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began impacting the US, Albertsons implemented a number of changes in its stores. They include sneeze guards at checkouts, floor markings to encourage social distancing, enhanced cleaning efforts and more. Locally, the company also joined the Crush the Curve initiative designed to speed testing of essential workers.

Albertsons and other grocers began hiring additional staff to meet demand. It also instituted a pay increase for workers.

According to Dallas Morning News, a national poll showed 93% of Americans favor paid sick leave benefits for grocery workers who test positive for COVID-19.

[Surge of grocery, retail jobs puts workers on the front lines of pandemic]

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