‘Our members are frontline workers in this crisis.’ Grocery store workers protest lack of protection

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Some Whole Foods Market employees across the U.S. went on strike Tuesday protesting the lack of protection during the pandemic.

It started with an online petition for a globally-organized “sick-out.” Like other grocery store workers in Kentucky and Indiana, they are asking for guaranteed paid leave for self-quarantine and increased access to testing.

Communications Director for United Food & Commercial Workers Local 227, Caitlin Blair said the union represents 25,000 members in Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

“Our members are frontline workers in this crisis,” Blair said. “What they’re doing is heroic by putting their health and safety at risk to serve their communities every day.”

It is why she is calling on Governor Andy Beshear and Governor Eric Holcomb to recognize the workers as first-responders during the coronavirus crisis. 

“Our members would get a place in line from protective equipment as that becomes more available and quicker access to testing because they have to continue to work for all of us to be able to get things for our families,” Blair said. 

The union is asking for additional pay, more access to cleaning products and procedures, and child care services for their members.

“The employees that are trying to get things on the shelves for you and your families please keep their health and safety in mind because they have to keep working in order for all of us to get through this,” Blair said. 

In an email sent to WHAS11 Whole Foods Market spokesperson, Rachel Malish said: 

“It is disappointing that a small but vocal group, many of whom are not employed by Whole Foods Market, have been given a platform to inaccurately portray the collective voice of our 95,000+ Team Members who are heroically showing up every day to provide our communities with an essential service. So far today we have seen no operational impact and we continue to operate all of our stores without interruption. There is no higher priority for us than taking care of our Team Members, which is why we have rolled out extensive measures to keep them safe at work, as well as an additional $2/hour, increased overtime pay, and offering an additional two weeks of paid sick time for those in quarantine or who have tested positive for COVID-19. In addition to social distancing, enhanced deep cleaning and crowd control measures, we continue to implement new safety protocols in our stores and facilities, which includes the companywide rollout of daily temperature screenings for our Team Members and Prime Now shoppers started this week. We celebrate and appreciate our Team Members today, and every day.”

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