Fred Meyer and QFC stores have reached an understanding with Washington state United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW) and Teamster local unions that will benefit thousands of grocery-store workers during the coronavirus outbreak.
The agreement includes two weeks’ pay for workers diagnosed with COVID-19 or required to self-quarantine before losing sick leave or paid time off. According to a Wednesday news release, the grocers have agreed to expanded use of sick leave to cover child care, a joint hiring hall to allow more workers to find work and to work with the state and federal governments to treat grocery-store workers as first responders. It also allows stores to bring in nonunion workers during the crisis.
Kroger, which owns Fred Meyer and QFC, also has agreed to expand its Helping Hands employee benefit fund to include those hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
The deal means two of the state’s largest grocers have now signed the agreement. Safeway agreed to the increased worker protections over the weekend. The unions also are negotiating with PCC Markets and Town & Country Markets, said Sarah Cherin, UFCW Local 21 chief of staff.
Grocery-store workers find themselves in a difficult situation during the outbreak. They work in one of the few places still open to large groups, are dealing with instances of hoarding, fights and shortages, and some fear they’re being exposed to the virus while everyone else is telecommuting or practicing social distancing.
The biggest difficulty, Cherin said, has been the increased need for child care now that schools have been closed for six weeks or more. Stores also need more workers due to increased business and the choice of some workers to quit rather than be exposed to large crowds.
Grocery stores have been scrambling to increase sanitary processes while also dealing with an increase in customers. Some stores see more than 5,000 customers a day and business has been holiday-level brisk since the county, state and federal officials began limiting the number of people allowed to gather in public.
Many grocery chains also announced this week that they are shortening hours and designating certain hours for elderly and at-risk shoppers. They’re also recommending those shoppers use delivery and pickup services, if possible, to reduce their contact with crowds.
Here’s a partial list of stores that have announced hours for elderly or at-risk shoppers:
- Safeway/Albertsons: At-risk shoppers (seniors, pregnant women, people who have compromised immune systems). Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9 a.m.
- Target: Senior shoppers and those with compromised immune systems. The first hour of each day. Check Target’s website for specific opening hours at locations throughout the Greater Seattle area.
- Town & Country Markets: Senior shopper hours, Monday and Wednesday, 7-9 a.m., starting 3/23.
- Uwajimaya: Senior Shopper hours daily, 8-9 a.m. in Seattle; all other locations on Tuesdays from 8-9 a.m.
- Whole Foods: Senior Shopper hours. One hour before the store opens to the public. Check Whole Foods’ website for specific opening hours at locations throughout the Greater Seattle area.
- Here’s a partial list of stores that have reduced hours:
- Fred Meyer: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. starting Thursday
- Metropolitan Markets: 8 a.m.-8p.m.
- PCC Markets: All stores now close at 10 p.m.
- QFC: 7 a.m.-11 p.m.
- Town & Country Markets: Ballard Market, 6 a.m.-11 p.m.; T&C Market Bainbridge Island, 6 a.m.-9 p.m.; Central Markets – Mill Creek, 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; Poulsbo, 5 a.m. -11 p.m.; Shoreline: 7 a.m.-9 p.m.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct Uwajimaya’s hours for senior shoppers.