DENVER, Colorado — The workers union representing employees from the JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley and the King Soopers in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood said a worker at each of those facilities has died from COVID-19.
This is the eighth JBS employee to die from the virus in Colorado, according to UFCW Local 7, the union that represents workers in retail food and sales, food processing, agriculture, health care, manufacturing and medical cannabis. Eleven workers at the King Soopers store have tested positive, but this is the first death. The union has been calling for better protections for weeks.
“It just you know shows why there's such a need for enforceable laws in this country in regards to workers' safety," said union president Kim Cordova. "We should not have to deal with this."
Tin Aye, a 60-year-old refugee from Burma has worked at the Greeley plant since 2008. She died Sunday after spending weeks on a ventilator. She became a grandmother while in the hospital and never got to meet her grandson.
King Soopers employee Randy Narvaez worked in the Denver grocery store for decades. The union said a total of 12 employees in that store have tested positive for COVID-19.
Cordova worries that King Soopers isn’t doing enough to limit the number of customers inside at a time and said not enough is being done to mandate masks.
"They’re trying to go back to normal and we're anything but normal right now,” Cordova said. “They're the backbone of this country the backbone of this economy and we can't have blue-collar Frontline essential workers passing away. This is it, enough is enough."
Both JBS and Kroger, King Soopers' parent company, shared statements with 9NEWS, sharing condolences for the families of these employees and to reiterate that they’re taking measures to screen workers before shifts. Both say they have increased sanitation processes.
King Soopers said the employees who have tested positive have self-quarantined and that the rest of the staff there will be getting tested, too.
JBS said it’s “sponsoring free, drive through COVID-19 testing for all Greeley beef plant and corporate office team members” if they want one.
But the union wants paid sick leave, federal inspectors in the stores and daily COVID-19 testing for workers.
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