DENVER (CBS4) – The union that represents thousands of King Soopers and City Market employees is calling attention to the dangers grocery store workers face during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Monday night, UFCW Local 7 brought a mobile billboard truck to several King Soopers locations in Denver.

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The union also projected images on the stores requesting hazard pay. At the beginning of the pandemic, Kroger Co. implemented a Hero Pay bonus of $2 per hour for essential grocery workers. The bonus pay ended on May 17.

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders joined union leaders to send a letter to Kroger Co. CEO Rodney McMullen, urging him to reinstate the bonus for the 42,000 grocery workers represented by UFCW across the nation. The letter also requests the following safety improvements:

  • Enforcing mask requirements
  • Reinstating and enforcing strict shopper limits to allow social distancing
  • Improved staffing on all shifts to enable all workers to take COVID-19 sanitation breaks to wash their hands and disinfect the store

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“Hundreds of thousands of UFCW members work to keep YOUR stores clean, YOUR shelves stocked, and YOUR business running. Their work has enabled the large increases in sales and higher profits you’ve reaped since the pandemic began. Yet, they are working in fear, they are working in danger, and they are working without adequate support and respect from their employer, Kroger,” the letter states. “They are risking their health and that of their families to keep America’s food supply chain running and the country fed.  It is time that YOU take care of Kroger’s frontline Essential Workers like they are taking care of your customers.”

Officials with UFCW Local 7 report 491 positive COVID-19 cases among members, a 692% increase, and three deaths.

King Soopers released the following statement to CBS4:

“Our most urgent priority throughout this pandemic has been to provide a safe environment for our associates and customers. While meeting our societal obligation to provide open stores, e-commerce solutions and an efficiently operating supply chain so that our communities have access to fresh, affordable food and essentials. We are proud of our dedicated associates who are on the frontlines, serving our customers when they need us most. Since March, we have invested over $1.3 billion to reward our associates (i.e., Appreciation Pay, Hero Bonus and Thank You Pay) and safeguard our associates and customers.

We continue to listen to our associates and take steps to ensure their safety and well-being. We also continue to execute dozens of safety measures and provide support to our associates through benefits like paid emergency leave and our $15 million Helping Hands fund, which provides financial support to associates experiencing hardships due to COVID-19, including childcare.

Our total COVID-19 incident rate continues to track below the rate in surrounding communities where we operate. Our stores are coordinating closely with local health departments and taking immediate action to support and safeguard our associates and customers when we learn of a positive COVID-19 case among our workforce. We recognize that our associates are a reflection of the communities where they work and live and have recently launched an internal campaign, Staying Safe at Home. Our goal is to create awareness and to provide reminders to our associates that when they are off work they must remain vigilant in protecting their own health.”