Pritzker Wants Cashier Shields, No Reusable Bags To Protect Retail Workers From Coronavirus

Grocers
Natural Grocers employee Brigette Williams, left, assists a customer with a purchase in Richardson, Texas, on Thursday. Stores have begun installing plexiglass shields in checkout aisles as a precaution to protect clerks and help stop the spread the coronavirus. Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press
Grocers
Natural Grocers employee Brigette Williams, left, assists a customer with a purchase in Richardson, Texas, on Thursday. Stores have begun installing plexiglass shields in checkout aisles as a precaution to protect clerks and help stop the spread the coronavirus. Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press

Pritzker Wants Cashier Shields, No Reusable Bags To Protect Retail Workers From Coronavirus

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced on Saturday recommendations to help protect grocery store employees and shoppers against spreading the coronavirus.

Among the steps is a temporary ban on reusable grocery bags and the placement of physical shields for cashiers and baggers.

“I want to … ensure that all our residents can access the food that they need when they go to the grocery store in as safe a manner as possible,” Pritzker said.

On Friday, Illinois’ largest retail union called for a temporary ban on reusable bags and other protections for retail workers who are concerned about contracting the virus from customers.

Steve Powell, president and international vice president of Local 881 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, said the state must do more to protect retail workers and their families during the pandemic.

“Tens of thousands of Local 881 UFCW members continue to show up every day and serve their communities across Illinois despite the risk to their own health and that of their families,” he said in a prepared statement.

“These brave union members deserve nothing less than the respect and protection of their elected leaders. Words and appreciation are not enough during this crisis. You cannot call them essential without providing the protections and benefits that title deserves.”

The union called for many of the recommendations announced by Pritzker on Saturday, including the temporary prohibition of reusable bags.

The union also wants Chicago to suspend its tax on plastic bags, but a spokesman for Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city would only delay the time that retailers have to pay the tax.

The spokesman, Patrick Mullane, said “as part of our efforts to provide economic relief for retailers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, last week the City extended the date for various tax remittances to April 30th, including the Checkout Bag tax.”

That means retailers must still collect the plastic bag tax, but they don’t have to pay it until the end of April.

Pritzker announced other actions he said grocery stores will start to take in coming days to protect workers:

  • Displaying signs about the six-foot separation rule

  • Making continuous announcements of social distancing rules on PA systems

  • Setting up floor markers for social distancing in checkout lines

  • Encouraging cashless purchases for speed at checkout

  • Dedicating staff to encourage social distancing in stores

  • Encouraging the use of online ordering and curbside pickup

  • Encouraging the use of self-checkout lanes to reduce the interactions among grocery store employees

Elliott Ramos is WBEZ’s data editor. Follow him @ChicagoEl.