Grocery workers are among the most vulnerable public service employees still coming to work in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and union leaders in Kentucky and Indiana are pushing for their inclusion as “first responders,” according to an article in the Louisville Courier-Journal.
While most customer service oriented establishments in the two states have closed their doors to the public, grocery stores are among the few remaining businesses still open, placing their employees at risk of being exposed to the coronavirus on a daily basis. Classifying grocery workers as first responders will entitle them to a host of benefits meant to temper this risk, including access to personal protective equipment, childcare services, and expedited coronavirus testing.
“No one is going to deny that grocery store workers and people who produce food are not only essential, but also front-line workers. They’re heroes. They’re going into work. They’re risking their personal health and safety to serve their communities,” said Caitlin Blair, a spokeswoman for the United Food & Commercial Workers Local 227 in Louisville.
Kentucky governor Andy Beshear says, “”We need them. We need to make sure that we have enough grocery store workers every single day. I will consider whatever it takes to make sure that those brave souls, knowing they’re going to come into contact with a lot of people, have the protections that they need.”
Read more about the risks faced by grocery workers on the front lines in Kentucky, Indiana, and across the country here.