The worker, Tony Rufus, allegedly died as a result of laboring during intensely hot conditions at a Memphis Kroger distribution center on Aug. 25. Rufus was working in the salvage department, which did not have air conditioning. According to co-workers who were present at the time of his death, he was attempting to cool off in the produce section of the warehouse and was asking for water before he collapsed and died on a dock.
Authorities are still investigating the incident, but Teamsters 667, the Memphis union which represents the distribution center workers, said it had pressed on Kroger prior to the fatality, asking that the company to give workers more breaks, cooler temperatures in the facility, and more than just water to drink.
A representative of Teamsters 667 did not respond to a request for comment in time for this story.
Kroger issued the following statement regarding Rufus’ death:
“The safety of our associates has always been our top priority. Kroger Supply Chain continues to take the necessary steps to ensure a safe working environment for our associates. We have contacted the associate’s family to offer our condolences and support during this difficult time.”
The Biden administration has proposed a new law protecting workers from heat-related illnesses, but no action has been taken by Congress.