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11 Feb 2022

Manuela Lopez Restrepo, Salon

Commentary: We aren’t only facing a supply chain issue — for grocery workers, it’s also a labour rights issue

"We aren’t only facing a supply chain issue — for grocery workers, it’s also a labor rights issue" 10 Feb. 2022

Two years into the pandemic, viral posts showing empty grocery store aisles across the nation are continuing to capture our collective attention. ... From local chains in small towns to Trader Joe's in New York City, there has been an undeniable disruption in the ease at which Americans are accustomed to showing up at the store and walking away with exactly what they want, regardless of season or scarcity.

... What has not been included in the conversation is how that shortage of workers has rippled from the coastal ports to nearly every industry that relies on in-person labor.

... The King Soopers and Kroger strike held by members of the UFCW Local 7 in Colorado ... is a perfect case study of the larger labor issues impacting grocery shortages in the US. 

Union members say they organized for many reasons, including demanding liveable wages, expanded healthcare benefits, and a less exploitative workplace culture. The main concern for many, however, has been safety. Kim Cordova is the current president of the UFCW Local 7 and has been leading workers throughout their efforts. She expressed fears for employee safety.

... In addition to making less than $15 an hour, hourly employees encounter safety hazards presented by customers who are anti-maskers or drug users, Cordova added.

"So, this supply issue is really a workers issue," she said. "And it's about workers rising up saying, 'You know what? This just isn't worth my life today.'"

... (Representatives from King Soopers and Kroger did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)