Rachel Campos, who had taken several months off due to COVID-19, returned to work in July as a grocery store cashier. She now has more information about how to prevent the disease from happening on the job.
Campos, a colleague who had been in close contact at Ralphs, tested positive for the virus. She has also heard of other infections among staff members, which could disrupt any sense of safety or control as the Omicron coronavirus sweeps through California at a staggering pace.
Campos stated, “I felt that it might be different more measures in order to make sure we were OK.”
With a COVID-19 spike, workers are having to struggle through yet another winter holiday season. This one has a variant that is spreading faster than ever before. Groceries usually have a busy week leading up to Christmas. This year, they are expecting record-breaking sales.
Workers don’t get better or more protections at their workplace, according to several employees interviewed. The pandemic has made people more aware of the pressures that retail workers face, but not all customers will be kind.
Kathleen Scott, who works at Albertsons grocery store Los Feliz, said that she was called a “Nazi pedophile” for telling someone to put on masks.
Scott claims that her employer has not provided any new guidance due to the increase in Omicron infection. She said that the pandemic has made it difficult for her and her coworkers to work through, and the $5-an-hour hazard-pay boost mandated by the city has ended. Scott feels that they get little support from their employers. She compared the experience to running marathons.
Scott stated, “When you get to those last three miles, you push harder because you believe it will be over soon.” “We feel like we’ve made it to the last mile, but then there’s another mile and then you just collapse.”
Albertsons did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Vanessa E. Rosales, Kroger spokeswoman, said that the company took a number precautions. These included implementing safety policies in the workplace at the start of the pandemic as well as making vaccine administration a priority. Associate who receive the required doses will be eligible for a $100 payment, she explained.
Rosales stated that they have been working to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years. She also stated that safety of customers and associates has remained their top priority. Rosales sent an email statement. “We continue to comply with all government regulations. We are reviewing the various requirements and learning from experts and government agencies to determine our approach.”
Grocers are experiencing a double blow, according to Burt P. Flickinger III managing director of Strategic Resource Group, a retail consultant. They are in short supply of employees due to COVID-19 and sometimes because other retailers are tempting their workers with signing bonuses or other perks.
Flickinger said that unionized employers, such as Kroger which owns Ralphs have higher levels of worker retention due to their better benefits. Flickinger said that unionized grocers have a higher productivity and loyalty rate than restaurants, especially fast food, which has a greater turnover.
Dana Spencer quit her job at Whole Foods Laguna Nigel where she had worked for seven years just after Easter. In an email, she stated that it was becoming an unsustainable work environment.
Spencer has heard that the store is sometimes short-staffed when she shops there. Spencer explained that customers sometimes wait up to 30 minutes to purchase a few items.
Spencer wasn’t the first to leave the store. Nearly everyone who worked in the department where Spencer worked has left Whole Foods since her departure. She said that a few of them went on to work at Trader Joe’s.
Spencer said, “No one that I worked with was happy, and every person I talk to is looking for another job.” “This is hard work, underpaid, and underappreciated.”
On Wednesday morning, Campos was notified by a supervisor that a co-worker with whom she had been in close contact had tested positive. Campos claimed she didn’t receive any instructions to quarantine her or any other guidance.
Campos felt paranoid and worried that she was getting sick, and worked for hours. After suffering from a headache, Campos decided she was done and quit her shift. She clocks in at 5 p.m., instead of her scheduled 9:30 pm finish time. Campos experienced the same headaches as her COVID diagnosis a year earlier.
She will not be working for the next two-days. She will be taking tests and monitoring her symptoms.
This story first appeared in Los Angeles Times.