NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — They’re the unsung heroes of the coronavirus crisis — grocery store workers, restaurant employees, and delivery people on the front line every day, risking their health so people can get the food and products they need to survive.
Homer Panteloglou is manager at the West Side Market on the Upper West Side.
“This store is 24 hours a day, but we’re working … each employee is working 12 to 14 hours daily just to try to keep the shelves stocked,” Panteloglou told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez on Tuesday.
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The store limits the number of customers allowed to shop, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and Panteloglou said he’s doing everything he can to protect his staff.
“Right now, we’ve giving masks and gloves to all our employees. Now we’re looking for the near future to build the tempered glass wall, to make a barrier between the customer and the cashier,” he said.
Some shops have plexiglass barriers in place and clerks wearing masks and gloves, personal protective equipment that remains in high demand.
But many grocery store workers, including some from Whole Foods, say they need more protection to do their jobs.
The grassroots group, Whole Workers, called for a global sickout Tuesday, demanding guaranteed paid leave for workers who must isolate or self-quarantine, and double the pay for employees who take the risk of going to work.
A Whole Foods spokesperson said the company gave workers a raise, increased overtime pay, and added more paid sick time for those who test positive for COVID-19, or are in quarantine.
There is no federal assistance program in place to help provide COVID-19 protections for non-healthcare-related essential workers.
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New York Trader Joe’s worker Ariel Gros-Werter said she knows every day she works she takes a chance.
“I, personally, am not okay with the fact that anyone who can afford to stay home is, and then those who cannot afford to and have to keep going to their hourly job are the ones at risk,” Gros-Werter said.
She said she is reminding customers they can do their part to protect all essential workers by limiting their time outside.
Instacart, a company that hires people to shop for groceries, also faced strike threats. On Sunday, it said it would make hand sanitizer available to its shoppers and make it easier for customers to add tips.
However, employees have additional demands, like disinfectant wipes and sprays, tips of at least 10% per order and hazard pay.