Once considered “essential workers”, Connecticut’s grocery workers have been at work since day one of the pandemic. 

UFCW Local 371’s members working on the front lines in CT’s grocery stores have been selling food and supplies to CT’s residents since the crazy first days of the pandemic, when people searched high and low for Clorox wipes and toilet paper- when the stores were filled with throngs of mask-less shoppers and there wasn’t PPE in sight.  In the eleven months since then, these same members have reported to work every day, often faced with confronting shoppers head-on when they refused to follow safety protocol.

“In the first weeks and months of the pandemic, our members were considered heroes.  Today, February 22nd, is even the first ever ‘Supermarket Employee Appreciation Day’.  That’s why we are even more disheartened to hear of the Governor’s decision to remove our members from the list of essential workers moving to the front of the line for the vaccine.” said Local 371 President Ronald Petronella.

“I’ve been working on the frontlines serving my customers nearly every day since this started in March.  I’m proud of the work I have done to keep my community healthy and fed. I never once demanded to stay home for my own safety.  However, I have a pre-existing condition, that I was born with, and I didn’t sign up to be exposed to a deadly virus at work. I was counting on this vaccine.” said Jason Laviana, a Local 371 supermarket employee and resident of Torrington. 

“Customers have taken the six feet social distancing rules and shrunk it down to about two feet at most and those one-way signs might as well be on the ceiling because no one follows them anymore”, said Dave Scanlon, a Local 371 supermarket worker from Andover.  “My wife and I are eligible because of our age, and my daughter is a nurse so she has already been vaccinated.  This isn’t about us.  This is about the dozens of coworkers who are much younger, and are exposed every day.”

“Across the US, over 30,100 unionized grocery workers have been exposed or infected.  Hundreds of UFCW members across CT have gotten Covid, and nearly a dozen more are reported every week”, said President Petronella.  “Those exposures lead additional employees to be quarantined from work, and each case has a widespread ripple effect.  There is also no way to count the number of customers exposed by each infected member.   Getting our members who serve in these essential functions vaccinated as quickly as possible is imperative to the health of our entire state.”