The Kroger Co. and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) are calling on federal and state government to take swift action to designate associates at grocery stores as “extended first responders” or “emergency personnel.”

In a statement, Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen and UFCW International President Marc Perrone, said, "Since the onset of this pandemic, Kroger family of companies associates, who are also members of the UFCW, have been working tirelessly to make sure that millions of American families have the fresh food and products they need. As all Americans are now witnessing – grocery workers play a critical role in our communities and they must be protected. “Working together, Kroger and the UFCW have already taken significant steps to keep Kroger associates safe and reward them for their incredible sacrifices throughout this ongoing crisis. The truth is more must be done and it must be done now. Given the significant daily risk these workers face, we are calling on all of our federal and state leaders to take immediate action. Specifically, we are requesting our nation’s leaders to assign a temporary designation of first responder or emergency personnel status for all grocery workers. Make no mistake, this designation is absolutely critical as it will ensure these frontline workers have priority access to personal protection equipment like masks and gloves. This urgent call for temporary first responder or emergency personnel status is not just about protecting grocery store workers; it is also about protecting the customers they serve and our nation’s food supply in general."

UFCW noted that some states have acted to give grocery store workers benefits and protections as first responders. For example, grocery associates in Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York can access to emergency child care. Also, in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, governors issued executive orders to make grocery work environments safer, the Washington, D.C.-based union said.