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Union wants Washington grocery store workers vaccinated as soon as possible

UFCW, the union that represents thousands of grocery workers in the state, says they should be vaccinated quickly along with other essential workers.

SEATTLE — Coronavirus outbreaks have impacted workers at grocery stores all over Washington state, and the union representing those workers wants to see them get vaccinated as soon as possible because they face potential exposure to the virus on a regular basis. 

Burien Fred Meyer worker Sharelle Claiborne has worked in the deli there for more than two years.  

"I have regular customers. The second they walk up, I know what they want and it's ready for them and I miss that," she said. 

Claiborne has been on leave since she tested positive for COVID-19 in December. Her mom works at the store as well and got sick.

"I had body aches. I had congestion. But other than that I was pretty OK," Claiborne said. "My mom was the one that had a lot of the breathing problems." 

Her mother is on the mend but is now scared to return to work and wants to see what happens with the vaccine. 

United Food and Commercial Workers, the union that represents thousands of grocery workers like Claiborne, wants to see them get the vaccine as soon as possible.  

"I feel like the government should be doing everything in their power to maximize vaccine production and essential workers, including grocery store workers," Claiborne said.

RELATED: Nearly 150 employees at Yakima County Costco store infected with COVID-19

Grocery store workers are currently listed in group 1B to be vaccinated with other essential workers. Healthcare workers and residents and workers in long-term care facilities make up the first groups to get the vaccine.

Claiborne said she's worried that the entire distribution system seems to be going slowly. 

"If the line's not moving and we're just stuck back here but we're on the front lines every day, every hour, 8-10 hours a day," she said. 

Claiborne would like to see more safety measures from the stores themselves and a return to that increase in pay they received in the spring. Several stores stopped providing that extra pay over the summer.  

KING 5 reached out to QFC and Fred Meyer and received this statement from a QFC representative on behalf of both companies:

"Our top priority since the start of the pandemic has been the safety of our associates and customers. We have been following all recommended CDC guidelines for our frontline associates, implemented more than 30 precautionary protocols and best practices, and are advocates for any measures that will continue to assure their safety. We will continue to advocate for our associates and follow the guidance provided by the state and local government in regards to the vaccine."