Initially deemed “essential,” grocery workers are still putting their lives on the line to restock pantries, but, one grinding year into the pandemic, now say they feel forgotten — by their employers and their customers.
“I feel like they’re treating us like we’re expendable,” said Kellie Ruzich, a 30-year-old mother of three and full-time meat stocker at a Walmart Supercenter near Duluth, Minnesota.
She and her husband don’t make enough to afford day care. He watches the kids during the day, 5-month-old twins with weakened immune systems and a 3 year old. Then they swap and he works overnight at Walmart.
While customers are “encouraged” to wear masks by staffers known as “Health Ambassadors” who are stationed at the front door, many shoppers “brush on by” with no mask, said Ruzich, a member of United for Respect, a nonprofit that advocates for low-wage workers. This comes despite Walmart’s policy that all associates and customers wear face coverings and Minnesota’s mandate requiring one when indoors and not alone.
When reached for comment on Ruzich’s issues, Walmart company spokesman Casey Staehli told NBC News in a statement: “We are pleased that the vast majority of the 130 million customers who visit us each week are wearing masks. If a customer doesn’t want to wear a face covering, our Health Ambassadors notify a member of management, who will talk to the customer and try to find a solution. We do not want our associates to do anything that…