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Kroger, Union Urge To Designate Grocery Workers As First Responders

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Supermarket chain Kroger Co. has joined with America's largest food and retail union to ask federal and state governments to designate grocery workers as "extended first responders" or "emergency personnel" amid the worsening spread of coronavirus or Covid-19.

According to them, the designation will ensure these frontline workers have priority access to personal protection equipment like masks and gloves.

In a joint statement, the company and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union or UFCW said the companies associates, who are also members of the UFCW, have been working tirelessly since the beginning of the pandemic. They play a critical role in the communities and must be protected.

Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen and UFCW International President Marc Perrone said, "Given the significant daily risk these workers face, we are calling on all of our federal and state leaders to take immediate action.... it is also about protecting the customers they serve and our nation's food supply in general."

Last week, the union joined with supermarket chain Albertsons to seek emergency first responders status for grocery workers that would result in added testing, protection to food retail employees.

Grocery workers are in the frontline to interact with customers despite the social distancing order, and are highly exposed to the respiratory illness. According to UFCW, at least 30 supermarket employees have died as a result of COVID-19, while another 3,000 have showed signs of illness or other possible coronavirus-related complications.

In early April, Kroger and UFCW had announced a new increase to the pay, benefits, and protections for the company's more than 460,000 workers across the country.

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