PALMDALE – Unionized grocery workers represented by UFCW Local 770 staged a rally Friday outside the Food 4 Less in Palmdale, where 23 grocery employees have allegedly tested positive for COVID-19 since Thanksgiving.
“We’re here to demand that Kroger, parent company of both Ralph’s and Food 4 Less, take action immediately to ensure no more positive cases,” said Kathy Finn, Secretary-Treasurer at UFCW Local 770. “We’ve been calling on this company for 10 months now to take safety more seriously and they’re very inconsistent in their enforcement of safety protocol.”
“We’re supposed to wash our hands every 30 minutes, [but] they don’t give us the time for that. We’re supposed to wipe down our check[out] stands every 30 minutes or every three customers, [but] they don’t give us time for that,” said Barbara Hughes, a cashier with the company for 26 years, including five years at the Palmdale store. “A lot of people are just calling out because they are afraid to come in.”
During the protest, workers called on Kroger to temporarily close the store while continuing to pay workers so they could safely quarantine.
“We’re just calling on them to understand the risks that these workers are taking, to pay them fairly and to take their health seriously,” Finn added.
Despite a 15.8% increase in sales, Kroger has eliminated hazard pay and has failed to enforce basic workplace protections to keep workers and customers safe, according to a news release by UFCW Local 770. Union officials said Cal-OSHA was onsite at the Palmdale store on Thursday, Dec. 17, and opened an investigation regarding the workers’ concerns about health and safety.
Grocery workers are now calling on members of the community to support the effort by contacting the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to request that the store be temporarily shut down.