Should retail associates be treated like frontline health responders?
Minnesota and Vermont last week officially designated grocery clerks as emergency personnel, similar to paramedics and nurses, to give them access to free childcare.
The workers range across food retailing roles, including those working registers, restocking shelves, cleaning stores and those involved in distribution.
Wrote Becky Dernbach for Mother Jones, which first reported on the designations, “As they brave the daily crowds of people rushing to stock up their pantries, and risk infecting themselves through contact with so many customers, their essential role in a functioning society has become clearer than ever.”
A number of retailers have temporary raised hourly pay, handed out special bonuses and/or enhanced sick leave protections as the coronavirus pandemic has led to packed stores and empty shelves.
To encourage social distancing to protect shoppers and employees, many stores are restricting the number of shoppers and have signs reminding them to remain six feet apart. Walmart, Kroger and Albertsons earlier this week indicated they are installing plexiglass barriers near registers to offer protections from sneezes or coughs.
Target on Wednesday said it will have greeters stationed at each checkout lane ensuring shoppers are at least six feet apart. Workers will clean checkout lanes after each transaction. The retailer has temporarily halted product returns and is not accepting reusable plastic bags, both of which could transmit the disease.
Kroger on Tuesday said it is allowing workers to wear protective masks and gloves. A spokesperson told Yahoo Finance that, while Kroger supports health care workers having first access, “We are advocating to government officials at all levels for help securing a priority place in line for all grocery workers — after health care workers — to have access to protective masks and gloves.”
Many workers at “essential” retailers also have to manage stressful shoppers.
One H-E-B worker in Texas told NBC News late last week that stockers “were getting pushed out of the way for toilet paper” and customers were “fighting over beans.” A shopper at a Wegmans location in New Jersey on Sunday was charged with making terrorist threats after coughing on an employee, laughing and claiming he had the coronavirus.
- Care for Children of Families of Emergency Workers – Minnesota
- Care for Children of Families of Emergency Workers – Vermont
- Governor Phil Scott Orders Implementation Of Child Care System For Personnel Essential To Covid-19 Response – Childcare Centers Closed; Urged To Provide Care For Children Of Vermonters Responding To Crisis – Vermont
- Minnesota and Vermont Just Classified Grocery Clerks as Emergency Workers – Mother Jones
- Target Invests More Than $300 Million in Frontline Team Members with Added Wages, New Paid Leave Program, Bonus Payouts and Relief Fund Contributions – Target
- Expands 14-Day COVID-19 Emergency Leave Guidelines – Kroger
- Supermarkets give workers raises amid coronavirus pandemic – The Boston Globe
- Target Provides Business Update Related to COVID-19 – Target
- Target CEO Brian Cornell Talks Prioritizing Work to Put Our Team, Guests and Communities First – Target
- Walmart Continues Focus on Health and Safety – Walmart
- Target and Kroger take social distancing to next level in war against coronavirus – Yahoo Finance
- On the coronavirus front lines: Grocery workers ‘vulnerable’ as panicked shoppers crowd stores – NBC News
- Coronavirus NJ: Man coughed on Manalapan Wegmans worker, said he had coronavirus, AG says – Asbury Park Press
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do frontline grocery workers deserve special protections and compensation amid the coronavirus pandemic on par with first responders? What else could grocers or local authorities be doing to support essential retail workers?