Retail workers want the right to defend themselves
A RetailWire headline last October asked the question: “Who protects store associates when shoppers lash out?” The answer to that question may come in new labor contracts being negotiated by unions representing frontline retail workers and their employers.
A New York Times article reports that the United Food and Commercial Workers union made sure to include the right of self defense for workers if they are attacked on the job. Associates in the past have been terminated from their jobs after physically engaging with customers or shoplifters over safety and liability concerns.
Kim Cordova, president of UFCW local 7 in Colorado, told the Times that the way people reacted to safety measures put in place to curtail the spread of COVID-19 prompted the need for the new provisions in workers’ contracts.
Associates were regularly verbally abused and too frequently physically attacked for enforcing public safety and/or corporate rules intended to protect workers and customers from the virus that has killed more than one million Americans and left many other with long-term medical issues.
The Times did an analysis of crime statistics published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and found that assaults from 2018 to 2020 increased 63 percent in grocery stores and 75 percent in convenience stores. More than two million assault cases were reported to the FBI during that period, with 82,000 taking place in shopping malls, convenience stores and other retail locations.
Retail stores, including King Soopers, Tops and Walmart, have been the sites of mass shooting incidents perpetrated by mentally ill individuals or those espousing political hate ideologies.
There is also the growing spate of smash and grab incidents where gangs of shoplifters mob a store and make off with merchandise. Incidents such as this always increase the chance that workers will find themselves in between thieves and their plans to make off with merchandise.
Around 80 looters last November blocked the street with their cars before they flooded into a Nordstrom store in California. They grabbed armfuls of merchandise inside the store and attacked associates with punches, kicks and pepper spray, according to NBC News. The raid took only one minute.
- Amid Attacks and Thefts, Some Retail Workers Want to Fight Back – The New York Times
- Who protects store associates when shoppers lash out? – RetailWire
- Mob thefts rock retail. What can stores do? – RetailWire
- King Soopers: Killed in the line of retail duty – RetailWire
- Walmart trains quarterly for active shooter events – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should retail industry employers give frontline associates the right to defend themselves and customers inside stores or should they continue to ban physical interactions with thieves and aggressive people? Do you see changes in store layouts, use of security personnel, technology, etc. as helping to address incidents of violent crime in stores?