BOISE — As many aspects of American life shut down to slow the spread of COVID-19, tens of thousands of jobs have sprung up in essential retail stores to keep the shelves stocked.

Day in and day out, employees in grocery stores, pharmacies and big-box chains such as Walmart and Target are serving swarms of customers trying to stock up on essentials. These workers have been classified as essential employees alongside first responders and health care providers, but without the benefits of personal protection equipment.

United Food & Commercial Workers International Union of Idaho, the union that represents workers at Albertsons and other commercial food processors and stores throughout the state, is advocating for more protections for grocery store workers. Union President John Caldwell said

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