Twenty-seven-year-old Leilani Jordan told her mother, Zenobia Shepard, “Mommy, I’m going to work because no one else is going to help the senior citizens get their groceries.”
Jordan worked at the Giant Food at the Campus Way South store. She was a greeter. Her mother described to local TV station WUSA9 how Jordan had worked at the Giant store for six years as part of a disability program. “She loved her little job,” and “She did whatever they needed to help people.”
In late March, Leilani Jordan became ill, was eventually diagnosed as being positive for Covid-19 and was hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center. Before she was placed on a ventilator, she called her mother, telling her, “Mommy, I can barely breathe.” On April 1 she died.
In a recent article, published in the Atlantic magazine, Ibram X Kendi documents how the virus has disproportionately impacted Black and Brown people.
Jordan is not the only grocery and retail worker to die.
Walmart workers’ rights group, United for Respect, reported that in Illinois, Walmart workers Phillip Thomas, 48, and Wando Evans, 51, both of whom worked at a store in Evergreen Park near Chicago, died in late March. In addition, a Trader Joe’s worker in Scarsdale, N.Y., died.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union has been demanding that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan designate grocery workers as first responders so that they can receive personal protective equipment.
In Maryland, two Amazon warehouses have already reported positive cases of coronavirus, one at the Baltimore location and two other cases at the Sparrow’s Point warehouse. Baltimore and Maryland Amazon workers have initiated a petition and Amazon has responded, but on a scale that workers describe as being far too limited.
The company is now doing temperature checks. But in one case, a worker reported that the company distributed cleaning supplies and some masks for the first floor of the building, where management resides, but on the second, third and fourth floor, no one has received supplies.
Workers have also developed the hashtag #STRIKEdontdie, which expresses their sentiments at being unrecognized front-line workers whose lives are being sacrificed to preserve the profits of the companies they work for without adequate hazard pay or the power to control their working conditions