30 cases of coronavirus reported at Westlake Food 4 Less; workers demand better protections
Thirty cases of the novel coronavirus have been reported at a Food 4 Less in Westlake, as the union that represents grocery store workers in Los Angeles demanded that the business institute better protocols to protect its staff.
In a media release, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 announced a demonstration Wednesday at the Food 4 Less at 1700 W. 6th St. to demand measures such as regular testing for workers and transparency about infections at stores run by Kroger Co., which operates the Food 4 Less and Ralphs supermarket chains.
Kathy Finn, the union’s secretary-treasurer, said workers are also asking that the business enforce social distancing, temperature checks of employees and mask-wearing among customers, and that it provide sufficient gloves in various sizes for employees.
Workers, she said, have noted that the store is so crowded that they do not have enough time to disinfect their stations or wash their hands.
“The real problem with all of this is its inconsistency,” she said. “If they enforce the mask rule a bit better part of the day but don’t do it consistently, it’s not that helpful. They need a list of protocols to follow, and they have to follow them 100%. These are people’s lives and people’s health on the line — they should be doing a better job.”
In a statement, Food 4 Less spokesperson Vanessa Rosales said there have been a total of 30 cases of the coronavirus among the store’s 125 associates. Twenty-four of those infected have already returned to work. The chain, she said, has taken extensive measures to protect its workers, including cleaning high-touch areas every 30 minutes, limiting store capacity to 25% of normal and mandating temperature checks for employees before the start of their shifts.
“At Food 4 Less, our associates are like family,” she wrote. “We are in communication with our associates that have tested positive to assist in their needs, and our thoughts are with them as they recover.”
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health did not immediately return a request for comment.
Following a coronavirus outbreak at a Ralphs in Hollywood, Kroger in May announced safety measures such as free coronavirus testing for front-line associates who have symptoms or medical needs that make them eligible for testing.
At the time, the outbreak was deemed the largest cluster of infections at a retail store recorded by the county’s department of health. Twenty-one employees had tested positive, a spokesman for the grocery chain said then.
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