About 800 Teamsters members held protests this week at Albertsons Cos. distribution centers in Tolleson, Ariz., and Roanoke, Texas, claiming that COVID-19 safety measures at the facilities fall short.

The drivers and warehouse workers at the two DCs — which serve more than 250 supermarkets in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Texas — allege that Albertsons isn’t fully complying with coronavirus protection guidelines and has failed to provide them with the company’s COVID-19 safety plan for the facilities, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said. The union described the Jan. 4 protests as “just practicing picketing.”

Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons emphasized its COVID-19 safety efforts across all of its locations and said it would work with the union to address member concerns.

“While we were surprised at the allegations given our focus on and diligence toward employee safety across all of our facilities, we will continue to bargain in good faith, with the goal of working toward a resolution that benefits our associates and our company,” Albertsons said in an email statement.

At the Albertsons Southwest DC in Tolleson, Teamsters Local 104 drivers and warehouse workers contend that social distancing in the facility is inadequate and the retailer isn’t providing sufficient quarantine and emergency sick-leave pay to workers required to isolate due to COVID-19. The DC serves over 175 stores, including Safeway in Arizona and New Mexico; Vons in Las Vegas; and Albertsons in Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah and El Paso, Texas.

“Since the pandemic began, our brave members have worked up to 14 hours a day, six days a week, to keep grocery stores stocked and provide food to our communities,” according to Russell Medigovich, business agent for Teamsters Local 104. “We expect Albertsons to follow the recommendations of public health experts to protect frontline workers and their families. If Albertsons continues to put our Teamster brothers and sisters at risk, we are prepared to take on that fight.”

Teamsters Local 745 drivers and spotters at Albertsons’ Southern DC in the Dallas area claim the company has failed to provide workers with an adequate supply of personal protective equipment and deep-clean vehicles “presumably contaminated” with COVID-19, with some workers reporting they’ve had to supply their own PPE and cleaning supplies, the union said. Teamsters members allege the DC also has violated federal labor law by not providing the union with a COVID-19 safety plan for the facility, which serves 78 Randalls, Tom Thumb and El Rancho Supermercado grocery stores.

“Albertsons is raking in huge profits from COVID-19, but it’s our members who are risking their lives and those of their families by working up to 14-hour shifts, six to seven days a week, for the past eight months to keep market shelves stocked,” stated Brent Taylor, secretary-treasurer and business manager of Teamsters Local 745. “It’s outrageous that Albertsons is refusing to provide us with the information we need to protect our members.”

The Teamsters’ safety concerns at the two DCs come in the wake of efforts by Albertsons to implement comprehensive coronavirus protections at all of its stores, facilities and offices since the outbreak took off in March. The grocery retailer’s COVID-19 safety measures include plexiglass protection at checkout, in-store social distancing guidelines, stepped-up cleaning and sanitation procedures, and sick leave benefits for associates diagnosed with coronavirus or those who are required to self-quarantine.

Though discontinued, Albertsons also instituted an extra $2 per hour “appreciation pay” for frontline associates as well as offered part-time employment to displaced restaurant, foodservice and hospitality workers and pledged millions of dollars to help feed families in need. Most recently, in late November, Albertsons deployed a contactless temperature check and health screening solution for associates and vendors across its stores and facilities. The company said the technology provides a more reliable health-screening process.

In April, Albertsons also partnered with the United Food and Commercial Workers International (UFCW) union in a national drive to get grocery workers classified as emergency first responders during the pandemic. The joint effort also included a full-page print ad in The New York Times, in which UFCW highlighted efforts by Albertsons to bolster employee and customer safety in stores and other facilities.

The nation’s second-largest supermarket operator, Albertsons operates 2,252 food and drug stores overall in 34 states and the District of Columbia under such banners as Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen and Carrs. The Teamsters said it represents over 11,000 Albertsons Cos. distribution, warehouse, dairy and food processing workers and about 185,000 of the retailer’s approximately 270,000 total employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements.

Source: Supermarket News