DENVER – Colorado Gov. Jared Polis wrote to the presidents of the companies that own Safeway and King Soopers Tuesday to ask them to implement more changes to better protect workers and customers at the stores, and thanked them for the measures already put in place.
Polis thanked the two presidents – Steve Burnham of Kroger and Todd Broderick of Albertsons – for their work so far during the outbreak and asked them to adopt the new proposals – some of which were proposed by the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 – in order to provide “the greatest possible protections for your workers and customers while simultaneously minimizing economic disruption.”
Polis said that UFCW and President Kim Cordova asked his office to issue emergency rules to require the steps proposed in the letter, and he said that his office was “actively … considering doing so.”
Among the asks of Polis made to Burnham and Broderick:
· Prioritize providing appropriate gloves, masks, face screens and other PPE to store workers to the extent possible
· Be sure there is hand sanitizer and soap at checkout stands, in restrooms, at store entrances and throughout the stores
· Extend public store hours for the duration of emergency in order to disperse traffic – with periodic closures for restocking and cleaning.
· Consider expanding grocery delivery and prioritizing delivery to people most at-risk
· Designate time periods for high-risk people to shop directly after the store is cleaned
· Establish access and entrance control to be sure crowds are socially distancing
· When possible, assign higher-risk employees to tasks that give them the lowest exposure to the public
· Encourage local law enforcement to maintain a presence at the stores. CSP has been asked to prioritize grocery stores with extra patrols.
· Implement visual cues, such as dots on floors, that help encourage social distancing within stores and checkout lines
Some of the requests have already been implemented in Safeway and King Soopers stores.
King Soopers spokesperson Jessica Trowbridge issued a news release Tuesday afternoon explaining what steps the stores have already taken and what else is planned.
She said that employees are told they can wear protective masks and gloves but that King Soopers supports health care workers having the first priority on the equipment.
“We are advocating to government officials at all levels for help securing a priority place in line for all grocery workers - after health care workers - to have access to protective masks and gloves,” she said.
The grocery chain is cleaning cashier stations, self-checkouts, credit card terminals, food service counters and shelves more often as well, according to Trowbridge.
The stores are also installing plexiglass partitions “at many” cash registers starting this week, Trowbridge said, and the chain anticipates every check lane, pharmacy counter and Starbucks registers to have one in the coming weeks.
The stores will also install education floor decals to promote distancing at check lanes and counters, she said.
King Soopers has enacted Emergency Leave Guidelines, allowing paid time off for associates diagnosed with COVID-19, placed under mandatory quarantine and paid time off for self-isolation and symptoms as verified by an accredited health care professional. All eligible associates will receive their standard pay for up to two weeks (14 days),” Trowbridge added.
“We believe all these steps will help to ensure the safety of our associates and help our communities to flatten the curve while at the same time meeting our obligation to be there for our customers,” she said in a statement.
Polis wrote that he also hopes the two presidents “act quickly in a manner that reduces the spread of the virus” and that UFCW has asked him to implement mandatory health insurance payments, hazard pay and additional paid leave on top of his previously-issued executive order.
He added that he and his senior team, including the executive directors of the departments of Public Health and Environment and Department of Labor and Employment, would be available to discuss any questions or concerns.
“I am hopeful, as we continue working closely with the federal government on its package of emergency benefits and with local and state agencies on our already in-place emergency measures, that we can again reassess our level of success in public health and economic security protection on an ongoing basis,” Polis wrote. “To that end, I would appreciate your response to this request with an inventory of which of these suggestions you plan to (or have already) put in place, as well as any other measures you might be pursuing to both protect your employees, your customers, and to safeguard Colorado’s food supply and distribution.”