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Boulder Shooting: Grocery Workers Dealt With ‘Worst of the Worst’

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The shooting at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., that left 10 people dead came after a year in which the pandemic made supermarkets a dangerous place for employees, who risked falling ill with the coronavirus and often had to confront combative customers who refused to wear masks.

“They’ve experienced the worst of the worst,” said Kim Cordova, who represents more than 25,000 grocery and other workers in Colorado and Wyoming — including those at the King Sooper store that was attacked — as the president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7.

At least 853 grocery store employees in Colorado have had the virus during the pandemic, according to outbreak data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The state does not list any infections at the store that was the site of the shooting, but Ms. Cordova said that all grocery store employees had risked their safety when they came to work and were confronted by hostile shoppers.

“They’ve seen horrible behavior by customers — spitting on them, slapping them, refusing to wear masks — but they were the first to be heroes,” Ms. Cordova said.

The union, U.F.C.W., which also represents meatpacking employees and other workers, said in a statement that at least four of its members in Colorado had died of Covid-19 since the pandemic began, and that at least 155 grocery workers across the country have died.

Ms. Cordova said her union had pushed for more security in grocery stores as customers grew more aggressive. And while she cautioned that it was not yet clear what the motive of the gunman was, she said grocery store workers have increasingly come under threat on the job since the pandemic began.

“We have seen this behavior become more aggressive and violent,” she said, “and this has really traumatized these employees.”

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