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caption: The Don't Cut Hero Pay rally takes place on Friday, May 15, 2020, outside of Fred Meyer along 1st Avenue South in Seattle.
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The Don't Cut Hero Pay rally takes place on Friday, May 15, 2020, outside of Fred Meyer along 1st Avenue South in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Grocery workers push for safety protections

As Washington’s Covid cases continue to grow, grocery workers are calling for stronger work protections.

A recent death and an outbreak at a Fred Meyer store in Burien has workers worried and frustrated.

Parent company Kroger confirmed the death, but did not offer any more information for privacy reasons. In addition, 10 workers tested positive for the virus.

Employee Sharelle Claiborne was among them and is still recovering.

“I’m scared to go back to work,” she said.

She added that at the start of the pandemic, carts were wiped down, and cleaning crews came to the store regularly. But those efforts have not been consistent in the past few months, she said.

“I want to see cleaning all the time,” Claiborne said. “I don’t want to see it when there’s a positive Covid case. And I want them to show us that’s what they’re doing.”

Workers also want Kroger to reinstate the $2 per hour hazard pay that ended in late spring.

“And it’s gone during a time when profits are off the charts,” said Faye Guenther, President of UFCW 21, the union representing grocery workers. “How is this possible that frontline workers are not getting their fair share of the profits?”

In an email response, Kroger said the company has invested more than $1 billion since March to compensate associates. It also continues to take precautions that were implemented in the spring, the email states.

Kroger officials also said based on contact tracing, almost all of the coronavirus infections happened outside of the workplace.


Correction: 10:48 a.m. 12/11/2020 This story has been corrected to note Kroger's assertion was based on contact tracing.