Grocery workers across the state have lodged over three dozen COVID-19-related complaints since March 2 with Oregon Occupational Safety & Health.
On March 20, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 announced these workers have been designated as "first responders," granting them additional protections. But in the days following that announcement, complaints from grocery workers flooded Oregon OSHA.
The complaints include a range of retailers—Costco, Fred Meyer, Safeway and WinCo—and center on a lack of personal protective equipment for workers, an inability to maintain 6 feet between employees, and poor sanitation practices. Some workers said they had to go into work when sick, or that their ill colleagues were still showing up.
"No hand sanitizer, readily available gloves, there wasn't even paper towels in the break room to wash our hands," says another complaint filed by a Costco employee in Bend on March 25. "We were told we could not go home on the busiest day of the virus; we had to stay even if we felt sick."
Workers at Safeway, which garnered 14 complaints statewide this month, complained of a lack of personal protective equipment being made available to them.
"Employees are working at check-out stands and customers state they have tested positive for COVID-19," says one of the complaints, filed against Safeway in Milwaukie on March 26. "However, employer is not providing direction in how to respond; as far as cleaning and disinfecting area after the customer leaves."
"Employees are not allowed to use PPE (gloves and masks)," says a complaint from a Safeway worker in Clackamas on March 30. "Employee continues to work while ill with fever, diarrhea and vomiting."
In a statement to WW, Safeway spokeswoman Jill McGinnis said associates are now receiving $2 per hour raises, and that the company is working to install Plexiglass barriers at registers across the 141 stores in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
"We cannot express enough gratitude for our associates' dedication and commitment during this unprecedented time, as they work to support their neighbors and provide essential service to their communities," McGinnis said in an email statement.
Costco did not immediately respond to WW's request for comment.