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'Careless customers' are the biggest threat to grocery store workers, union president says

United Food and Commercial Workers' union said 85% of its grocery workers reported that customers are not practicing social distancing in stores.

NEW ORLEANS — If you’ve been to a grocery store lately, you know social distancing is a challenge.

In the New Orleans area, some supermarket workers have been infected with the coronavirus.

Stores are taking precautions to protect their employees such as installing plexiglass barriers, limiting the number of people allowed in at a single time and putting markers on the floor designed to promote social distancing.

Most also have gloves and sanitizers available as you enter the store.

“For the foreseeable future, people are going to need to come into grocery stores and that’s why taking precautions, social distancing only shopping once a week or so is so important,” Greg Ferrara, President and CEO of the National Grocers Association said.

But, according to Marc Perrone, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers' union, "careless customers" are "probably the biggest threat" to workers right now.      

The union said 85% of its grocery workers reported that customers are not practicing social distancing in stores.

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The state has designated supermarkets as an essential service, keeping them open while restaurants are limited to delivery and pickups.

Just last week, the U.S. Labor Department suggested stores can use a drive-through window or offer curbside pick-up as another way to protect workers.

Ferrara, a native New Orleanian said not allowing customers in the store isn’t going to work.

“Let’s say a typical order takes 30 or 45 minutes to shop and to be prepared to be picked up or delivered,” Ferrara said. “If you do that math, there’s not going to be enough capacity to handle the demand that would be needed.”

The food workers union is urging customers to “shop smart” by wearing masks and gloves and being more mindful of social distancing.

Ferrara agreed, saying we all need to do our part to help protect the workers who he called “Supermarket Superheroes.”

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