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In Survey Of Grocery Workers, Most Say Customers Are Not Practicing Social Distancing

Trista Eudaily | Texas Public Radio

A union's recent survey of some of its members found that 85% said grocery store customers did not practice social distancing and 81% said they hoarded supplies or groceries.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, or UFCW, spoke to more than 5,000 grocery and food workers.

The union's new national campaign, entitled "Shop Smart," targets the behavior of American grocery shoppers.

The campaign is a response to the growing number of food and grocery workers exposed to the coronavirus and the direct threat this outbreak poses to the nation's food supply, a reality echoed in their survey.

"Since the beginning of the outbreak, these workers have been on the front lines of this terrible pandemic," UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement. "While tens of millions of Americans were told to work from home for their safety, grocery store and food workers have never had that option. More must be done to protect them and our food supply now.”

The UFCW reported that at least 30 of its members have died from COVID-19. It also said that about 1,500 members have tested positive, and twice as many have been affected by the outbreak.

“Grocery workers are deeply concerned," Perrone added in the statement. "The 'Shop Smart' campaign will help save lives by making clear that all members of the public can take key safety steps to help protect these workers and each other from the coronavirus.”

The union, which represents more than 900,000 grocery workers, urges people to take the "Shop Smart" pledge: Wear a mask inside the store, always keep six feet or more from others and never toss gloves on the floor.

The union's statement included highlights from the survey, which, it said, has a "1 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence level." Here are some of those highlights, quoted directly from the statement:

Customer Support for Workers

  • 29% said customers treated them somewhat poorly or very poorly.

Top Customer Safety Issues:

  • 85% said customers are not practicing social distancing.
  • 81% said customers are hoarding supplies or groceries.
  • 62% said customers are blaming employees for shortages

When asked what grocery stores should do to improve customer safety and treatment of workers:

  • 72% supported a limit on the number of customers in stores
  • 49% supported stores banning unruly customers
  • 41% supported stores hiring more security

Several grocery store chains and retail chains in the San Antonio area — including Walmart, H-E-B, Dollar General and Target — have announced their own COVID-19 safety measures, which include social distancing, changed store hours to allow for disinfecting and restocking, and limits on how many customers can be in the building at any given moment.
Learn more about changes to business operations because of the outbreak at TPR's dedicated business blog.

Steve Short can be reached at Steve@TPR.org.

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story was unclear about how surveyed grocery workers felt about shoppers' behavior in their stories. A majority of the surveyed workers believed their customers did not practice social distancing and did hoard groceries and supplies.

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