Coronavirus & grocery workers: “working in a petri dish”

A Lucky’s supermarket in Oakland. Workers are in close contact with customers but aren’t provided safety equipment – gloves or masks. These workers are just as important as doctors or nurses and deserve the same protection.

A grocery worker describes his conditions:

Life for grocery workers has dramatically changed during this Covid – 19 Coronavirus out break.

Prior to the out break when we as grocery workers showed up for work we’d hit the breakroom or office grab our aprons, caffeine, some snacks and just chill waiting for our shift to start so we could clock in. Punching into to the time clock was never an issue, punch your ID number and off to work we’d go. Now things have changed! Before you touch that time clock it’s sprayed with Lysol or wiped down with sanitizing wipes, that is if you can find them. Everything we touch we have to sanitize, our work tables, shopping cart handles etc. Some of us have purchased our own gloves and are wearing them but others are not. The company is not supplying any safety gear for workers.


A typical shelf in a California grocery store

Gutted shelves
For the night shift workers they are walking into a store every night with completely gutted shelves. When they get loads from the warehouse they are either huge due to some many outages or they are spotty because the warehouse is having such a hard time keeping up with demand due to people’s panic buying and hoarding. At night the stores are filthy due to the influx of customers flocking the stores during the day panic buying. The night crews find all kinds of nasty things left on the shelves by customers that they have to touch and remove while wearing no safety gear. Night after night it’s a mad rush to fill up shelves working hundreds if not thousands of cases of freight only for the shelves to still look barren. The entire shift it’s in your mind “what germs did customers leave behind and will I be the one that gets infected with Covid – 19?” Showing up for work every day is like you’re playing a continuous game of Russian Roulette! That mind set causes a lot of stress.

The “little things”
Little things we used to take for granted like taking a drink of water or going to the bathroom has dramatically changed. Before drinking water, wash your hands first. Before going the bathroom room and after, wash your hands. Touching door handles, everything we did in the past unconsciously you now have to think about to protect yourself. In general grocery stores are a petri dish just waiting for infection to happen and the company is doing no real extra cleaning or sanitizing to protect workers.

For grocery workers working the day shift they have whole other issues to deal with.

“Frantic customers”
The day shift are dealing with all the frantic customers coming into stores panic buying! Having to tell irate customers over and over “No we do not have toilet paper or paper towels”. Customers seem to think we as grocery workers can just magically make items appear out of the back room. One of our workers who works in the meat department was even accused by a customer of hiding meat in the back! As a grocery worker we just have to stand there and take the abuse by irate angry customers never being able to tell them how we feel about their abuse in fear of losing our jobs.

Stressed but “just keep smiling”
For the grocery workers in the check stands they have to be face to face with hundreds of customers all day long. No face mask or other protective gear and they can’t get to the bathrooms as often as other workers to wash their hands. On top of that they are touching cash and touching the key boards on the register all day long. All these things are a easy way to transmit the virus. Up until this week a small bottle of hand sanitizer in every check stand was their only protection against the virus . Recently the company installed plexiglass barriers to protect workers from customers but in reality it was weeks too late. One checker made the comment “I’m so stressed my nerves are shot!”. During all this stress the day workers have to keep a smile on their face and keep up the superior customer service that the company demands on workers.

It would appear a large number of customers don’t seem to realize that we as grocery workers are also going through this crisis but are even more at risk of catching or transmitting this virus and taking it home to our families.

On the flip side we have had some customers come in and from the bottom of their hearts thanked us for what we are doing and being there for them during these tough times.

Oaklandsocialist comments:
During this crisis corporate media and politicians are labeling grocery workers “First Responders “. The only difference between other first responders and grocery workers is other first responders get limited protective gear and grocery workers get none.

Only time will tell how exposed grocery workers have been to this pandemic, but one thing is for sure the corporate bosses are more concerned with all the extra money they are making rather then if their workers are protected or not.

A Lucky’s supermarket in Oakland. Workers are in close contact with customers but aren’t provided safety equipment – gloves or masks. These workers are just as important as doctors or nurses and deserve the same protection.

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