By Jennifer McRae

DENVER (CBS4)– Grocery stores in Colorado remain open and have been operating throughout the pandemic. Their employees are considered essential, but many feel they are not receiving the protection they deserve.

The Local 7 employees union and Essential Grocery Workers nonpartisan organization of unions are calling on grocers to take better care of their employees. They are asking Kroger and Safeway to reinstate a $2 per hour hazard pay bump. They also want more health safeguards.

(credit: CBS)

“Local 7 wants both grocery companies to prosper because that means that our communities have access to food and essential services, and our members have jobs,” said UFCW Local 7 political liaison Melissa McCollister in a statement. “However, we implore both to ensure our members’ safety and by extension, that of our communities, and pay them the Hazard Pay they deserve.”

Employees and family members of workers joined the campaign. One woman spoke about her brother who worked for Kroger and died of COVID-19 in May.

“We want Kroger to stop hurting workers like my brother through their inaction. Kroger continues to put their workers at risk,” said Nikki Trujillo.

In a statement, King Soopers said its priority is to provide a safe environment for all its employees. It will continue to listen to its associates to ensure their wellbeing.

“If this pandemic has shown us anything, it’s shown us who really makes this country work, who really makes this country run. And it’s our grocery store workers, our delivery truck drivers, our janitors, our nurses, our teachers, the American worker, who is putting themselves, their lives on the line, their families on the line, to make sure that all the things that sometimes we take for granted, get done,” said Congressman Jason Crow in a statement. “And I just can’t thank you all enough, but thanks is not enough…truly what you need is support, you need hazard pay, you need clean and safe working conditions, you need our community and our lawmakers to step up and to support you in the way you deserve to be supported because of the work that you have done.”

Jennifer McRae