LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – No mask? No service.
That’s the stance that the nation’s top grocery store union wants grocers like Kroger, Walmart, Whole Foods and Trader Joes adopt until the coronavirus pandemic ends.
“Should a person be allowed in a store who doesn’t have a mask on, when we are in the middle of a possible pandemic?” United Food and Commercial Workers International President Marc Perrone said during a national media call on Wednesday. “I think that, as a matter of public health policy, we should be willing to do that, especially if they provide the masks for the customers.”
Perrone added that one big retailer – warehouse membership club Costco, whose workers aren’t unionized – has withstood the fear of alienating customers and required masks upon entry to stores.
“I think it’s totally appropriate,” Perrone said.
Perrone’s comments came as the UFCW – which represents thousands of Kroger and Meijer workers in the Louisville area – said Wednesday that 68 of its grocery store members have died as a result of the coronavirus. The union represents more than 900,000 grocery workers.
Most of those deaths have been in New York and New Jersey, where the virus has been more commonly transmitted, he said.
Meanwhile, more than 10,000 UFCW grocery workers have been “infected or exposed” to the virus, the union said.
Perrone said grocery workers have been put in a difficult position of having to ask customers to wear masks, some of whom don’t take kindly to the suggestion.
Public health experts say masks primarily prevent a person’s respiratory secretions from infecting others, so wearing one is for the benefit of people you encounter.
When customers don’t do that, “We are total targets -- sitting ducks,” said Kristine Holtham, a Kroger worker in Lansing, Michigan, during the UFCW call.
Kroger, the Louisville area’s biggest grocer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The UFCW represents about 1.3 million workers in grocery, meatpacking, food processing and other industries.