Coronavirus: Grocery store workers fight for new protections amid COVID-19 pandemic

Grocery store employees and warehouse workers are essential to the fight against coronavirus and find themselves in harm's way every day on the job. They're fighting for new protections, and in Los Angeles County, help is on the way.

Employees at Whole Foods stores called for a nationwide sickout, insisting on greater protection from the coronavirus.

The customers lined up at a store in Pasadena are sympathetic.

"It's a tough time to be on the front line," said Pasadena resident Sandy Murphy.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas authored a motion that requires grocery stores and pharmacies to protect their workers by sanitizing all bathrooms, cleaning stores and shopping carts between uses, providing sanitizing stations inside and outside stores, providing access to coronavirus testing and supporting employees who struggle with child care during the crisis.

"They're considered essential workers. We need to make sure they're safe and they're healthy, so that when they get off work, they don't take home this deadly virus," said Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who co-authored the measure.

Whole Foods is offering two weeks of paid leave for employees who test positive for COVID-19 and paying them an extra $2 an hour.

Industry analysts say grocery retailers profits are exploding during the coronavirus crisis with sales up as much as $100 billion for the year.

Workers say Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, should do more. They want paid leave for those who choose to stay home or self-quarantine and hazard pay of "double" their current hourly wage.

"I think if they weren't here, what would we do? So they deserve more," said Tim Divers, a Pasadena resident.

A worker at an Amazon facility in New York was fired after helping to organize a protest over safety conditions there. The company said he violated virus safety procedures.

Whole Foods, meanwhile, says it is committed to fulfilling a critical need in its communities as well as prioritizing their employees well-being.
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