As the rest of the world closes down businesses and orders people to stay home to flatten the curve, grocery workers are forced to continue business as usual despite increased health risks and little protection. Several states, such as Vermont and Minnesota, have taken action to make grocery workers classified as emergency workers, granting them benefits such as free childcare to help compensate for the risk.
Gov. Mike DeWine should issue an executive order declaring all grocery workers as emergency personnel to help boost morale for those risking their health to keep their communities fed.
Grocery workers, especially in Athens, often make under $15 an hour and commute over 25 minutes to work each day. We touch customers’ groceries, money and keys while standing 2 feet away from them despite the CDC recommendation of 6 feet. The presence of hand sanitizer doesn’t make us less afraid.
Politicians are praising the heroics of grocery workers without fighting for a policy that makes our lives easier. Workers are making personal sacrifices for their jobs, while many struggle to make ends meet after decades of wage stagnation. There are still ongoing fights about giving essential workers, such as grocery workers and paid sick leave.
There has been news coverage about the alarming death toll among doctors and nurses treating COVID-19 patients, but we grocery workers are scared for ourselves and our families as well.
A Columbus Kroger employee tested positive for the virus, and it feels only like a matter of days before Athens workers start to fall ill if people do not stay home or use available personal protective equipment while grocery shopping.
Minimum wage work has always been scoffed at as a stepping stone job, yet most remain in the workforce in a time of crisis, providing essential services necessary for survival.
Young baggers and cashiers are worried about unknowingly giving the virus to their immunocompromised parents. A coworker of mine hasn’t been able to hold her first grandchild of her only child due to her work at a grocery store. Another one of my coworkers tells me his parents call him often to say he should quit. My parents frequently text me to ask how I am and to say that they’re worried.
My plea is those essential workers are not excluded from the title of emergency workers. Healthcare professionals are doing incredible work treating the sick at the expense of their own health and making many sacrifices. Just know that when you read stories about doctors isolating themselves from their families, there are grocery workers doing the same.
Please reach out to your elected officials to urge them to support classifying workers as emergency workers, as the United Food and Commercial Workers have in Ohio. It will not solve everything, but at the very least, it gives us something to hold on to.
Kailee Missler is a senior studying strategic communication at Ohio University. Please note that the opinions expressed in letters do not reflect those of The Post.