DENVER — Family, friends and co-workers came together Sunday to remember three people who died of COVID-19. All three were grocery store workers at King Soopers, a supermarket brand of Kroger. Between them, they had 45 years of experience as Kroger employees.
UFCW Local 7, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Colorado hosted the memorial service and motorcade to honor 75-year-old James McKay, 67-year-old Karen Haws and 51-year-old Randy Narvaez.
According to King Soopers, two of the three employees honored at Sunday's memorial had not been working in its stores since mid-March, so it's unclear where or when the employees contracted the virus.
"We should never have to have any type of event like this – it could have all been avoided," said Kim Cordova, president of Local 7.
Union reps like Cordova and family members have been begging grocery stores for months to implement stricter safety laws.
Attendees gathered at the Colorado Education Association parking lot on Sunday morning for remarks by Local 7 leaders, as well as family members of the fallen.
Afterward, attendees took part in a memorial drive past the King Soopers store in the Capitol Hill neighborhood at Corona and 9th streets in Denver, where Narvaez and McKay worked.
The grocery store chain on Sunday sent out a statement saying in part:
"We didn’t lose employees, we lost members of our King Soopers family. We are devastated by the loss of these individuals and our thoughts are with their families and friends as they grieve the loss of their loved ones. We hope that today’s memorial is a true celebration of their lives."
King Soopers also said it has taken extensive measures to safeguard associates.
Still, families and the union want more protections for their members.
"We’ve been pushing the companies before COVID even really hit Colorado to follow CDC guidelines," said Cordova. "But we really need to push on a federal level so we get viable and enforceable safety laws.
"I think that there was a lot that could have been done to avoid the loss of life here," she added. "It’s a big loss to us and to our community."
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