Kroger to politicians: Designate grocery workers as first responders now

Kroger makes changes to keep shoppers safe

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The Kroger Co. is calling on federal and state governments to designate grocery workers as first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said Tuesday.

The designation would grant grocery workers improved access to personal protective equipment.

Headquartered in Cincinnati, Kroger is the country’s largest grocer.

In conjunction with the UFCW, the country’s largest food and retail union, the company says its associates should be temporarily designated as “extended first responders” or emergency personnel."

Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen and UFCW International President Marc Perrone issued a joint statement saying grocery workers play a “critical role in our communities” and asking for their protection.

“We urge our national and statewide elected leaders to act now and protect these essential workers."

Kroger took early steps to support its associates and limit the spread of COVID-19 at its stores.

By the third week in March, the company had offered employee bonuses and expanded paid-leave, created special hours for vulnerable populations, begun to install plexiglass partitions and permitted its associates to wear personally owned PPE.

The grocery giant has also partnered with Kentucky to provide free drive-thru testing throughout the commonwealth.

Still, McMullen and Perrone say more must be done.

"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 frontline workers have priority access to personal protection equipment like masks and gloves.”

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