Albertsons, UCFW team up to reclassify grocery store employees as first responders during coronavirus pandemic

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First responders may be coming to a grocery store near you.

Major grocery store chain Albertsons has teamed up with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), the largest food services labor union in the United States, in an effort to classify grocery workers as first responders during the global coronavirus pandemic.

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Albertsons, which owns regional supermarket chains like Safeway, ACME, Vons, Pavilions, Star Market and more, together with the UFCW, has announced a committed effort to “seek a temporary designation of ‘extended first responders’ or ‘emergency personnel’ for supermarket associates,” according to a press release shared Tuesday. The new designation would prioritize grocery store workers, who are considered essential workers, for testing and personal protection equipment like masks and gloves during the outbreak.

Albertsons grocery stores, which own and operate supermarket chains including Star Market, are fighting for employees to be considered first responders during the outbreak.

Albertsons grocery stores, which own and operate supermarket chains including Star Market, are fighting for employees to be considered first responders during the outbreak. (Andrew Fone)

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The UFCW represents about 1.3 million workers in the U.S. and Canada. UFCW International president Marc Perrone, with Albertsons Companies president & CEO Vivek Sankaran, released a joint statement commending the work of the grocery employees for “sacrificing every day to protect our nation’s food supply.”

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“This joint action is an example of how all Americans must work together to protect everyone working on the frontlines. This includes not only our brave first responders and healthcare workers but also associates at our nation’s grocery stores who are providing communities with the essential food and supplies needed to weather this public health crisis.”

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Several states around the country have taken steps to ensure the safety of grocery store workers, like offering emergency childcare for employees.

Last month, all Albertsons stores began installing protective shields around pharmacy counters and checkout, as well as social distancing markers throughout the store.