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Grocery workers complain about 'careless customers' during COVID pandemic

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

A union representing grocery store employees in Michigan says “careless customers” are probably the biggest threat to their workers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union says 96% of their members nationally are “concerned” about being exposed to the coronavirus at work.

“We’re seeing companies reluctant to enforce social distancing restrictions on customers,” says Marc Perrone, UFCW President. 

According to The Washington Post, nationally at least 41 grocery workers have died of COVID-19. Kroger confirms four Michigan workers have died. And the Detroit Free Press reports a Meijer employee has also died of COVID-19. 

Aaron Squeo is a UFCW member in Michigan.  He’s been working for Kroger for 27 years.

“When I’m stocking the meat counter and people are crowding around me to get at meat and stuff, that’s not social distancing,” says Squeo.

Squeo says many customers at his Kroger store in Roseville aren’t wearing masks and others are leaving protective gloves in shopping carts and in the parking lot.

“Our people have to go out there and pick up this stuff. We don’t know what’s all over it. It’s dangerous,” says Squeo.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union says more testing, sick pay and personal protective gear are needed.  

“This is not union vs non-union,” says Perrone. “This is about life or death.”

Michigan Radio listeners, readers, and reporters are rising to the challenge every day. If you can, please support essential journalism during this crisis.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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