WESTLAKE DISTRICT (CBSLA) — Nearly 30 grocery store workers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus at a Food 4 Less in the Westlake District, according to the workers union.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 said Tuesday that 28 employees at the store’s 1700 W. 6th St. location tested positive for the virus — making it the largest outbreak at a grocery or retail drug store in Los Angeles and the most publicly reported positive cases of grocery retail workers in Los Angeles County.
“It’s clear that the pandemic will not be weeks-long or even months-long. It is our new reality and workers and customers need permanent protections,” John Grant, UFCW Local 770 president, said in a statement. “The pandemic has shone a bright light on hourly wage earners.
“They are Black and brown, immigrants and people of color,” he continued. “Their work has always been essential and under valued. The pandemic put their hard work front and center.”
The union, along with community supporters, held a socially-distant demonstration outside of the store Wednesday to call on Kroger — the parent company of Food 4 Less and Ralphs — to provide regular testing and ensure safety measures are enforced inside all stores.
A group of workers walked into the store to hand-deliver a signed petition to management asking that more be done.
“We waited and waited for management but they left,” said union rep Samantha Christian. “I guess he went to lunch or something. I don’t know but he wasn’t there.”
“We don’t have the time to get the cleaning done because we’re trying to get people out because there’s just too many people in there,” said another worker.
They also say that management is not consistently enforcing safety protocols.
In a statement to CBSLA, Kroger said: “With regular visits from the local Health Department, we’ve affirmed that our processes continue to live up to our high safety standards in protecting our associates and the millions of customers that visit our 127 stores each week.”
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed on its website that 23 workers had tested positive for COVID-19.
The Food 4 Less outbreak is the second reported outbreak at a Kroger-owned store in Los Angeles, according to the union. The first outbreak was reported in May when 21 workers at Ralphs, 7257 W. Sunset Blvd., tested positive for the illness.