Unionized grocery store workers want to be treated like first-responders

Unionized grocery store workers say they are on the front lines of the coronavirus and want the same protections given to first responders.

A spokesman for UFCW Local 400 says workers need access to personal protection equipment, otherwise known as PPE's, as well as testing so they can make sure the shopping environment is an safe as it can possibly be.

But D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says there is a shortage of supplies and she would have to take a hard look at the request.

"We will evaluate how they can go into our local strategic stockpile...(and I will) have our team of modelers see if another group of essential personnel, non government essential personnel could be fit onto that list and how we could prioritize that," she said.

In the last few weeks grocery store and other retail chains have listened to their workers and installed plexiglass shields at the check out counters.

And as the virus has spread and taken lives in our region more and more workers have  begun wearing masks and gloves.

"We have had confirmed cases in the District already and we can't wait any longer we have to understand how widespread this disease is in grocery stores", said Union spokesman Jonathan Williams, "we do not want going to the grocery store which everyone needs to do to become the most dangerous thing you can do in this city that is unacceptable so what we need to do is open up these testing sites that the Mayor has created to grocery store workers".

In some stores workers are wearing full face shields. It has gotten that scary for them.

But testing kits and PPE's are in short supply and at the moment the city doesn't have the capacity to add another group of workers.

The District now has a testing site for first responders, health care workers, residents over 65 and residents with underlying health conditions. The Union would like to see grocery workers added to that list

So far, the Union says, one worker at a store in Columbia Heights has tested positive and others are in quarantine.