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    UFCW Blog

March 25, 2020

 A coronavirus safety guide for grocery workers

If you are one of the many grocery employees working around the clock to keep food on the shelves during the coronavirus outbreak, we know you are exhausted and struggling to balance many different responsibilities. Thank you for all you are doing, and know we’re fighting hard for the protections you deserve. You can follow updates from the UFCW at ufcw.org/coronavirus


Text “Prepared” to 83071 For Updates


COVID transmission

How infection happens

The primary routes of entry for the virus are the eyes, nose, and throat. Most infections will occur from either inhaling droplets from another sick person, or touching a contaminated surface and then touching your face. This is why handwashing is so important. Skin acts as a barrier, and the more you wash your hands, the more chances you have to wash off any germs you may have picked up.


handle of freezer in grocery store

How long does the virus stick around?

We’re still learning about this virus, but from what experts have said, it can linger in the air for up to three hours at the most. On stainless steel surfaces, it can last a bit longer. On porous surfaces like paper and cardboard, it can survive for up to 24 hours. It is not yet clear how long it might last on cloth such as work uniforms.


man washing his face

Wash your face and hands before leaving work

If you return home with dirty hands, you may touch a number of surfaces in your home before you get to your sink, let alone on the way from your work back to where you live. Wash both your face and hands before leaving your worksite and do not enter your house until you have done so.


home washing machineWash your clothes when you get home

It’s not clear what temperature will kill the virus, but it is clear that you don’t want a bunch of contaminated work clothes laying around your house. Bag clothes worn to work and get them into the washing machine as soon as possible. Handle clothing as though it is contaminated. You may wish to use gloves, but at the very least wash your hands after getting everything into the laundry.


Woman disinfecting phoneWipe down your cell phone

Wipe down your cell phone and anything else you take to work and touch frequently before you enter your home.


What about face masks?

Face masks are tricky because not all face masks are the same. The loose, surgical masks you may have seen many people wearing are not air-tight and fitted to the face. When you breath in, air can still get around the sides and they are not considered adequate protection against breathing in the virus. They are more intended to be worn by anyone who has the virus to help prevent the spread of germs to other people in the form of exhaled droplets or other bodily fluids, which isn’t a bad thing, but it is important to know the difference. N95 respirators are different from the face masks and can protect you from inhaling up to 95% of airborne particles.


Keep 6ft between you and others

Try to maintain at least 6ft of distance between you and your coworkers, customers, or anyone else you come in contact with. The six feet of distance is intended to protect you both from exhaled airborne droplets. By keeping distance between yourself and others, you help prevent the chance of exposure. The UFCW is working with employers on ways to reduce risk of transmission within stores, such as plastic barriers between customers and cashiers, or reworking the checkout procedures.


Use your gloves properly

Even if you have gloves on, they still are not going to protect you if you touch your face while wearing them. Gloves can be worn for an extended period of time as long as they are not damaged. Remove your gloves when you go on break and wash your hands after taking them off. Do not wash your gloves. Get a fresh pair of gloves when you return to work and be sure to dispose of your old gloves properly.


Your right to refuse work

If you are over 60 or have an underlying health condition that compromises your immune system, you have the right to refuse work you feel is putting your life in immediate danger. Higher risk workers should be moved to roles with less customer interaction.


Report any issues

If you are experiencing issues in your store, such as a shortage of protective equipment, lack of hand sanitizer or access to handwashing stations, please contact your local union rep and fill out this form here. The form will help us keep track of the types of problems most worker are facing and help use better work with employers to solve them.

Report an Issue


For updates related to COVID-19, please visit www.ufcw.org/coronavirus. 

March 24, 2020

UFCW: Amazon CEO Sells $3.4 Billion in Stock Before Market Collapse While Failing to Protect Workers from Coronavirus  

America’s Largest Private Sector Union Condemns Jeff Bezos for Putting His Own Profits Before Worker Health and Safety During Outbreak 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million workers in grocery, retail, and other industries, condemned Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for failing to protect the company’s workers during the coronavirus outbreak even as the Wall Street Journal reported that he protected his own wealth by selling $3.4 billion in stock in the first week of February, before the market collapsed.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“As the Wall Street Journal reported, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has now been exposed for putting his wealth first on the eve of the coronavirus outbreak, even while the company refuses to do enough to protect Whole Foods employees and other Amazon workers from this pandemic.

“It was already outrageous that Amazon refuses to provide any paid sick leave until after they test positive for the virus. That may now be explained by the fact that Bezos is apparently more concerned with adding to his personal wealth than protecting the health and welfare of his workers, their families, or the public.

“Make no mistake, union and non-union grocery workers are literally on the front lines of this national coronavirus outbreak. They are putting themselves at risk every day to help feed America’s families. Is it really so much to ask that billionaires and non-union employers, like Amazon and Whole Foods, do more to protect their workers and the public?

“The America people, our elected leaders, and especially Whole Foods and Amazon customers, have the right to demand to know why Bezos sold this stock when he did, and more importantly, why he isn’t doing more to protect workers and this nation from this terrible pandemic that has impacted every single American.”

Background:

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sold $3.4 billion in Amazon shares in the first week of February, shortly before the stock market peaked, allowing him to avoid losses of roughly $317 million if he had held the stock through March 20. Bezos sold almost as much stock during the first week in February as he sold during the previous 12 months.

Earlier this month, UFCW called out Amazon and Whole Foods for failing to provide any paid sick leave to employees until after they tested positive for COVID-19 and suggesting that employees “donate” their paid time off (PTO) to coworkers facing medical emergencies during the coronavirus outbreak. With coronavirus testing incredibly scarce, this leaves Whole Foods employees – and all Amazon employees covered by the policy – at great risk before they are able to get tested.

UFCW has been a vocal critic of Amazon’s aggressive move to devalue and degrade grocery jobs at Whole Foods. In September 2019, UFCW slammed the company for cutting medical benefits for hundreds of part-time workers. In March 2019, UFCW condemned actions by Whole Foods to reduce employee hours just months after Amazon announced a wage increase that was supposed to be an investment in Whole Foods workers.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org.

 

March 24, 2020

Why does washing your hands for twenty seconds help stop the spread of coronavirus?

We’ve all seen it in the news: wash your hands for twenty seconds to help kill any viruses you might have picked up. But why twenty seconds? Is it an arbitrary rule or is there actually something magic about that length of time? Is there a special kind of soap you need or will any old soap do?

The answer is rooted in a bit of basic chemistry.

 


Stop the Spread

6 things to do to stay healthy
More COVID-19 News

March 24, 2020

Cargill workers to receive $2/hour emergency pay increase during COVID-19

After talks with the UFCW, Cargill has agreed to give employees at their meatpacking facilities a $2/hour emergency pay increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the raise in pay, the union and the company are working out ways to better practice social distancing within the packing plants, where under normal conditions workers work in close proximity to each other. Increased sanitation and screening at the plants will also be going into effect, and virtual health visits will be expanded for those seeking care in the health clinics so that they do not have to visit the health clinics in person to receive treatment where possible.

Keeping our meatpacking and food processing plants running is a matter of national security to ensure that everyone has enough to eat during this difficult period. The UFCW is actively negotiating with other companies in the meatpacking and food processing industries to ensure workers are protected and our food chain remains secure during this crisis.


We’re calling on ALL food employers to step up and compensate our front line workers.

Add your name here.

March 24, 2020

Updated coronavirus policies from SaveMart, Meijer, Schnucks, Dierbergs Markets, and Straub’s Markets

Union grocery workers continue to get the extra pay and health benefits they’ve earned during COVID-19. Here’s the latest from our grocery negotiations:

SaveMart Supermarkets

  • All grocery workers will start receiving an extra $2.50 per hour, retroactive to March 8, for all hours worked up to 40 hours per week.
  • Anyone working beyond 40 hours per week will earn an extra $3.50 per hour for all hours worked over 40 hours per week.

Meijer

  • All hourly team members in stores, pharmacy, supply chain, and manufacturing will be receiving a bonus of $2 per hour for hours worked paid on a weekly basis from March 22 – May 2.

Schnucks, Dierbergs Markets, and Straub’s Markets

  • All co-pays for coronavirus testing will be waived.
  • The companies will also maintain pay for their workers who become sick and expand access to telemedicine with zero out-of-pocket costs.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone appeared on MSNBC earlier today to talk about the importance of protecting grocery workers.


Some companies have already agreed to do the right thing and provide paid leave, emergency pay, and protective shields for all cashiers, but many are still holding out.

Take action now: tell your favorite grocery stores & brands to protect ALL food workers!

March 24, 2020

Danone, Pepsi, and Kraft agree to additional protections for workers during outbreak

Three more companies, Danone, Pepsi, and Kraft, have agreed to extend additional protections to their employees who are working during the coronavirus outbreak. The UFCW hopes more companies will follow the example and make the necessary changes to protect the workforce that powers America’s food chain.

See the agreements from these three companies below:

Kraft

  • Workers who miss work because of COVID-19 will receive short term disability pay with waived waiting times.
  • Workers who live in a school district that has shut down will be paid 100 dollars extra per week to help offset the cost of childcare.
  • Any co-pays on healthcare related to the virus will be waived.

Danone

  • Hourly workers will receive a premium payment equivalent to 15% of their base hourly rate for all hours worked.
  • If a worker contracts coronavirus or must stay isolated at home because they have been in close contact with someone with the virus, they are eligible for up to 80 hours of paid quarantine leave.
  • Workers who have childcare needs are eligible to utilize any state, city or provincial paid sick leave where applicable.

Pepsi

  • Workers who are diagnosed with COVID-19, showing symptoms, or caring for a family member in their household who has been diagnosed or showing symptoms will receive 100% of their pay for up to 14-days.
  • Workers who work at a facility that must be closed will receive 100% pay for up to 12 weeks.
  • Workers who are impacted by school or daycare center closure with no one home to look after a child will receive a minimum of two-thirds of their pay for up to 12 weeks if they are not able to work from home.
  • Workers are also eligible for free COVID-19 testing, a “Crisis Care” reimbursement of $100 a day for child care, and access to specially trained mental health professionals.

For updates related to COVID-19, please visit www.ufcw.org/coronavirus. 

If you are a worker experiencing an issue at your workplace related to COVID-19, please report it to us online.

March 23, 2020

Perrone on MSNBC: “What concerns us is the volume of people coming into the stores, and the exposure that those workers are having”

UFCW International President Marc Perrone appeared on MSNBC to speak with Andrea Mitchell about the dire situation faced by America’s grocery workers who are struggling to stay safe while working under challenging conditions during the coronavirus outbreak.

Read the transcript of that conversation below. 

Learn more about the UFCW’s COVID-19 work


ANDREA MITCHELL: Joining me now is the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Marc Perrone. His union represents more than a million members. Marc, thank you very much for being with us. What is your main concern about the people working in the grocery stores, working in the drugstores, on the front lines, really?

MARC PERRONE: Well, what concerns us at this point, quite honestly, is the volume of the number of people that are coming into the stores and the exposure that those workers are having. On a normal day, we might look at anywhere from 800 to say 1,200 people, depending on the day. But one day last week in one of our stores in the New York/New Jersey area, there were over 10,000 people in the store that day.

Just the sheer volume of the people that they run into is one of our major concerns. And them not having the protective equipment that they need, much like the doctors and the first responders. Now, we understand that there’s a — what we’ve been told is there’s a shortage, and therefore, we believe that that equipment, of course, needs to go first to the doctors and the nurses and the firefighters and the police.

However, we have looked for alternative ways and we’ve been working with Albertsons and Safeway to put up plexiglass shields, to shield those workers from that close contact. We think that’s going to be a good solution in the short-run, but we do need protective equipment at some point in time when we get enough supplies for everybody that are going to be in the line of fire.

MITCHELL: What percentage, if you know, of grocery store workers in the big chains even have masks?

PERRONE: Well, what we’re finding out is that virtually none of them do. Even if they have their own mask at home, like if they’ve done some drywall work or asbestos work around their house or insulation work, they don’t have those masks. And because the CDC initially said that you should only wear them if you’re sick, I think it gave the impression to the public that if you wore a mask, you were sick. And some of the employers were concerned about their employees having masks on, that the public might think that they were sick, when they really weren’t. So, it has been a challenge.

I think the biggest thing that they could do for our members right now — and that’s one of the reasons why we are asking for first responder status, is so that we can get quick testing and rapid test results so that at least we’d be able to pull anybody out of the stores that had tested positive that were going to be talking to that many people in the public on a day-to-day basis.

And it also would help our co-workers in those stores so that they wouldn’t get sick from interacting with somebody that might have been infected. I think the third thing that we’re looking for that’s very important to us is workers have time off sick pay if they’re impacted by the virus. Now, that’s very different than being infected by it, because we can’t get the testing, and we can’t get the rapid test results.

Many people are, in fact, pulling themselves out of work because they have symptoms. however, they can’t get the test done. and since they can’t get the test done, by the time they’re well and a test can be given to them, the employer says, well, you know, ultimately, we didn’t have a result for you. And so, they’ve pulled themselves out to protect their customers and their co-workers, but they end up having a Catch-22.

MITCHELL: Well, as we both know, for your workers, they don’t qualify for the tests under these current guidelines. You have to have been diagnosed or have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed to even qualify for a test, and then it’s very hard to get. So it is a catch-22. Marc Perrone, thank you very much. Thanks for speaking out for all of the frontline people working in the grocery stores, helping to keep us all fed and, of course, the drugstores as well.

PERRONE: You know, Andrea, if I may, thank you so much for having me today. and i don’t know if you’re aware of this, but we also represent all of the packing and food processing workers, so that’s the next level of concern.

MITCHELL: Absolutely.

PERRONE: We need to keep this food chain and food supply open because we will, in fact, have panic if we can’t keep that open. Thank you.

MITCHELL: Well, you are so right. Thank you, again.


Learn more about the UFCW’s COVID-19 work

March 22, 2020

UFCW International President Marc Perrone speaks on CNN about the impact of coronavirus on workers

UFCW International President Marc Perrone spoke with CNN’s lead political anchor, Wolf Blitzer, today on about the importance of protecting the health and well-being of those working to keep our grocery stores and food processing facilities running during the coronavirus outbreak.

Though Congress recently passed an emergency relief bill, the bill fails to provide paid leave for 80 percent of American workers.

The need for Congress to act is demonstrated by the irresponsible actions of companies like Whole Foods and Amazon, who have chosen to extend paid sick leave only to those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

At a time when testing is incredibly scarce, requiring testing before offering paid leave is not only heartless, but dangerous to public health as it makes it impossible for workers who cannot afford to go without a paycheck to adhere to the recommended health guidelines to stay home if they feel ill.

The UFCW has been working with union employers like Stop & Shop and Safeway on ways to improve protections for employees while keeping stores operational. In Stop & Shop stores across the northeast, 70,000 grocery workers received a 10% raise and two additional weeks of paid leave.

In Seattle, UFCW Local 21, 367, and 1439 announced a Safeway/Albertsons deal including increased scheduling flexibility to accommodate childcare, expanded use of paid sick leave to cover childcare needs, and protecting worker eligibility for medical coverage while out on sick leave.

In Missouri, UFCW Local 655 announced Schnucks, Dierbergs, and Straubs grocery stores will waive all co-pays for coronavirus testing, maintain pay for those who become sick, and expand access to telemedicine with zero out-of-pocket costs.

March 22, 2020

Rite Aid employees to receive emergency pay increase

Rite Aid announced they have agreed to give their workers an emergency pay increase of $2 an hour and will also raise their employee discount from 20% to 35% so they can shop for essentials.

Everyday companies across the nation are proving they can afford pay increases. Add your name and demand emergency pay increases for all essential workers here.

Sign the Petition

March 21, 2020

Stop & Shop workers to receive ten percent pay raise, additional paid sick leave during coronavirus pandemic

 After talks between the union and the company concerning the safety and well-being of the men and women who are tirelessly working to keep grocery shelves stocked and doors open during the coronavirus outbreak, Stop & Shop announced they will be giving all union Stop & Shop and Peapod employees represented by the UFCW a ten percent increase in pay during this crisis. Workers will also receive two additional weeks of paid leave if they become sick.

“Every supermarket, grocery store, and food retail employer – union and non-union – in the Northeast and across America must follow the example that Stop & Shop has set and follow their lead,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone.

UFCW International and UFCW Locals have been negotiating with employers across the country to recognize how hard grocery workers are working to provide necessary food and supplies to their communities during the coronavirus pandemic.

UFCW and Safeway announced that Safeway would provide a two-dollar-per-hour increase in pay for its grocery workers across the country during the outbreak.

In California, UFCW Locals applauded Stater Bros. Markets for implementing a $2.00-per-hour pay raise to its workers. The raise will apply to all hourly employees over the course of four weeks beginning March 23.

In Missouri, UFCW Local Union 655 secured a deal for grocery workers at Schnucks, Dierbergs, and Straubs to waive all co-pays for coronavirus testing, maintain pay for those who become sick, and expand access to telemedicine with zero out-of-pocket costs.

For updates related to COVID-19, please visit www.ufcw.org/coronavirus. 

If you are a worker experiencing an issue at your workplace related to COVID-19, please report it to us online.