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Kroger: Designate Grocery Workers as First Responders

Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
Kroger: Designate Grocery Workers as First Responders
Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen is calling for a temporary official "first responder" designation for his workers.

The Kroger Co. is joining the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) in calling for a temporary official "first responder" designation of grocery workers.

The designation would improve grocery workers' access to still-scarce personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, McMullen says.

"Given the significant daily risk these workers face, we are calling on all of our federal and state leaders to take immediate action," Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen said in a joint statement with the UFCW President Marc Perrone. "Make no mistake, this designation is absolutely critical as it will ensure these front-line workers have priority access to personal protection equipment like masks and gloves."

Four Kroger workers have died in Michigan while workers at stores in Finneytown, Harrison, Middletown and Batesville, Indiana, have fallen ill.

Kroger has hired more than 32,700 new associates in the past few weeks, many from restaurants, hotels and foodservice distributors that were closed due to the coronavirus. 

Additionally, the grocer and its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation have deployed more than $3 million to hunger-relief resources for those communities most impacted by the coronavirus. 

"Since the onset of this pandemic, Kroger family of companies associates, who are also members of the UFCW, have been working tirelessly to make sure that millions of American families have the fresh food and products they need. As all Americans are now witnessing - grocery workers play a critical role in our communities and they must be protected," McMullen added.

Kroger began free drive-thru COVID-19 testing this week in Kentucky. Kroger, which worked with Microsoft, will have a digital registration process at for people to schedule their drive-thru testing. Locations are expected to test about 250 vehicles each day. The Frankfort location will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Thursday this week. 

"We believe this process is the first in the state of Kentucky, and maybe across the nation, provides a very easy way for people to register for the test," Colleen Lindholz, the president of Kroger Health, told the Enquirer. 

Lindholz said Kroger's tests are through self-administered swabs. 

"We are doing this because, for one, it's less invasive for the patient. Two, it conserves personal protective equipment, which is great. Three, it allows us to test more people in the same day," Lindholz said. 

Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 9 million-plus customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and 2,769 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 2 on Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.


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