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Union representing food retail workers raises vaccine rollout concerns

Grocery store clerks and food retail workers have been deemed essential from the very beginning of the pandemic

SOUTH ST PAUL, Minn. — For an entire year, food retail workers have held together the fabric of this country.

Jim Gleb's 4,500 union members doing the same, all across our state. He is the secretary treasurer of UFCW Local 1189 in South St. Paul.

"They go to work every single day, they've been showing up under some of the most adverse conditions with lines going down the aisles," Gleb said.

Deemed essential from the beginning, grocery store workers have held down the line. They were there when the country seemingly ran low on toilet paper. They were there as people scrambled to stock their pantries. And they are still there now.

"Right now every visit I make, the first question I get is, when are we getting our shots?" Gleb said. "We are working closely with the governor's office and have been. We were told we should've already been in that list."

From this chart the Minnesota department of health released at the end of last month, essential frontline workers were due for their vaccines in April to May.

Food retail workers, according to this chart are in Phase 1B - tier 3.

"We understand that there are supply chain issues and things that have happened, our folks keep getting moved back," Gleb said. "They're still going to be there every single day, in front of the customers to get the things that they need."

And customer behavior is something they just cannot control.

"They're in there everyday with people who don't necessarily follow the basic rules that everybody knows about," Gleb said. "Making sure your hands are clean, keeping six foot distance, wearing a mask all the time, our folks are working in a difficult situation. Our employers have been great; they've tried to do everything they can with keeping things sanitized, making masks available."

"Obviously we will keep pushing," Gleb continued. "And talking to the governor's office and try to find a way to get our folks in line as quick as possible."'

MDH says the timeline still is the same, that they're expecting to vaccinate food retail workers before May.