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May 19, 2020

New Trump Guestworker Policy Exploits Coronavirus Outbreak, Threatens Safety of Workers & American Jobs

America’s Largest Meatpacking Union, with 250,000 Workers Across the Industry, Condemns New H-2B Visa Policy That Will Endanger Workers, American Jobs & U.S. Food Supply

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million members, condemned a new U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy removing limitations on the H-2B program for workers who are deemed essential to the food supply chain during the coronavirus outbreak. The new policy will make it easier for companies to eliminate American jobs and replace current employees with guest workers.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s brave meatpacking workers are not replaceable. They are putting their lives on the line every day, with dozens dying and over 10,000 infected, to make sure millions of Americans have the food they need during this deadly outbreak.

“When the Trump Administration forced meatpacking plants to reopen, but failed to enforce the strong safety standards needed, it put more American workers at risk. This new policy is a betrayal of America’s meatpacking workers, giving companies a free pass to ignore safety and push anyone who gets sick out of a job by replacing them with untrained guest workers.

“America’s food supply depends on our country’s meatpacking workers who have the skills and training needed to keep our food supply chain strong during this pandemic. An American president should be protecting American jobs and the food workers who are keeping our country running, not replacing them or exploiting this crisis to further enrich meatpacking companies.

“At a time when our economy is spiraling and our food supply is already under pressure, this decision is a direct threat to workers and represents a clear and present danger to public health and safety. Our country’s leaders – both Republicans and Democrats – must reject this move and stand up for the American workers helping to feed our families during this crisis.”

Background:

This past week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced a Temporary Final Rule that will remove limitations on the H-2B program for workers who are deemed “essential to the U.S. food supply chain” and make it easier for employers to obtain guest workers for food manufacturing and processing.

This follows an effort in March 2020 by the National Pork Producers Council to pressure members of Congress and other U.S. Government officials to allow pork producers to hire more guest workers who would displace the hardworking Americans keeping these plants running.

UFCW has been the leading national voice calling for action to increase safety in meatpacking plants to protect workers and keep the U.S. food supply chain secure. In a recent letter to Vice President Pence, UFCW urgently called for the White House Coronavirus Task Force to prioritize five safety actions targeted toward the meatpacking industry, including: (1) increased worker testing, (2) priority access to PPE, (3) halting line speed waivers, (4) mandating social distancing, and (5) isolating workers with symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19.

 

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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 grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

May 15, 2020

Top Supermarket Chains Condemned for Ending COVID-19 Emergency Pay Even As Grocery Worker Deaths Increase

In Letter to 49 Supermarket CEOs, America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Urges Walmart, Costco, Whole Foods, and others to Immediately Extend COVID-19 so-called Hazard Pay For Frontline Grocery Workers  

Group Also Releases New Estimate: At Least 65 Grocery Workers Have Died, and 9,810 Have Been Infected or Exposed in COVID-19 Pandemic 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million members, sent a letter to 49 CEOs of top U.S. supermarket chains including Walmart, Costco, Whole Foods and many others condemning them for a failure to extend emergency pay and protections for grocery workers who are working on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak.  

In the letter, UFCW International President Marc Perrone urged them to reverse the decision to end so-called hazard pay for their employees, and to publicly recognize that the health risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic continue to cost lives all across the country. In fact, new internal UFCW estimates show that at least 65 grocery workers have died, and at least 9,810 have been infected or exposed to the deadly virus.  

In the letter, UFCW called for these CEOs, most of whom continue to work from home even as their workers face dangerous conditions, to do what is right and immediately extend hazard pay until the risk of the virus has abated.  

Today’s letter was sent directly to the CEOs of top supermarket chains across the country, including John Furner (Walmart Supercenters), Dan Bane (Trader Joe’s), John Mackey (Whole Foods), Craig Jelinek (Costco), Kathryn McLay (Sam’s Club), Todd Jones (Publix), and many others. Excerpts of the letter are included below: 

“Millions of American grocery workers have been rightfully called essential by our nation’s elected leaders. Given the daily risks faced, these workers deserve critical protections, benefits, and a higher wage for as long as this public health crisis endures. That your companies are even considering cutting the pay of these frontline workers, while you experience record sales, is shocking in its indifference. 

“Workers are still dying, including many of your own frontline employees. Every one of your grocery workers are still being asked to risk exposure to this virus and work in dangerous conditions that require them to wear protective equipment on the job. You are suggesting that frontline workers should work for less because the threat has diminished even as you and your entire executive teams continue to work from home.  

“If you truly believe that the threat of COVID-19 has passed for your workers, then you should be willing to admit this publicly. Until that day comes, you have a responsibility to provide your workers with essential protections and benefits, including so-called hero/appreciation/hazard pay, until this terrible threat has passed.  

“For the sake of these workers, our families, and our nation’s food supply, we ask you to remember your responsibility to ensure that these workers are receiving the premium pay that they have rightfully earned by facing the very risks that so many Americans—including all of you—have been lucky enough to avoid.”


Background: 

As of today, the UFCW estimates that at least 65 grocery workers have died and 9,810 workers have become sick or exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Please click here to read the full text of the UFCW letter, which was sent to the the CEOs of the following supermarket companies: 

  1. Walmart Supercenters – Bentonville, AR
  2. Costco Wholesale Corp. – Issaquah, WA
  3. Publix Super Markets Inc. – Lakeland, FL
  4. Sam’s Club – Bentonville, AR
  5. H-E-B – San Antonio, TX
  6. Whole Foods Market Inc. – Austin, TX
  7. Aldi Inc. – Batavia, IL
  8. Southeastern Grocers – Jacksonville, FL
  9. Wegmans Food Markets Inc. – Rochester, NY
  10. BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc. – Westborough, MA
  11. Hy-Vee Inc. – West Des Moines, IA
  12. WinCo Foods LLC – Boise, ID
  13. Save-A-Lot – Earth City, MO
  14. Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. – Jacksonville, FL
  15. Sprouts Farmers Markets – Phoenix, AZ
  16. DeMoulas Supermarkets Inc. – Tewksbury, MA
  17. Smart & Final Stores LLC – Commerce, CA
  18. Ingles Markets Inc. – Black Mountain, NC
  19. Golub Corporation – Schenectady, NY
  20. IGA Inc. – Chicago, IL
  21. Lidl US LLC – Arlington, VA
  22. K-VA-T Food Stores Inc. – Abingdon, VA
  23. Brookshire Grocery Co. – Tyler, TX
  24. Grocery Outlet Inc. – Emeryville, CA
  25. Big Y Foods Inc. – Springfield, MA
  26. Gordon Food Service Store – Wyoming, MI
  27. The Fresh Market Inc. – Greensboro, NC
  28. Bashas’ Inc. – Chandler, AZ
  29. Cardenas Markets LLC – Ontario, CA
  30. Fareway Stores Inc. – Boone, IA
  31. Woodman’s Food Markets Inc. – Janesville, WI
  32. Rouses Enterprises LLC – Thibodaux, LA
  33. Marc Glassman Inc. – Cleveland, OH
  34. Lowes Pay and Save Inc. – Littlefield, TX
  35. Redner’s Markets Inc. – Reading, PA
  36. Brookshire Brothers Ltd. – Lufkin, TX
  37. Four B Corp. – Kansas City, KS
  38. Associated Food Stores – Salt Lake City, UT
  39. Niemann Foods Inc. – Quincy, IL
  40. Cosentino’s Food Stores – Prairie Village, KS
  41. All American Quality Food Inc. – Stockbridge, GA
  42. Food Giant Supermarkets Inc. – Sikeston, MO
  43. Harmon City Inc. – West Valley City, UT
  44. Sedano’s Supermarkets Inc. – Hialeah, FL
  45. Stew Leonard’s – Norwalk, CT
  46. Fresh Encounter Inc. – Findlay, OH
  47. B & R Stores Inc. – Lincoln, NE
  48. ABC Stores Hawaii – Honolulu, HI
  49. Aurora Grocery Group – Charlotte, NC 

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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 grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

May 8, 2020

Trump Order to Re-Open 14 Meatpacking Plants Fails to Increase Coronavirus Testing and Safety Measures Needed to Protect Food Supply & Workers

America’s Largest Meatpacking Union Calls Rush to Re-Open Plants Without Safety Improvements Dangerous Move for Long-Term Security of U.S. Food Supply Chain

Union Announces 30 Meatpacking Worker Deaths, 40 Percent Drop in Pork Production Capacity, 25 Percent Drop in Beef Production Capacity  

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union – which represents more than 250,000 meatpacking and food processing workers across the country – announced its opposition to the re-opening of 14 meatpacking plants under the recent executive order by President Trump, raising concerns about the serious safety issues at these facilities that put workers and the food supply at risk.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s meatpacking workers are putting their lives on the line every day to make sure our families have the food they need during this pandemic. Meatpacking plants did not close because anyone wants them to close. These plants closed because at least 30 workers died and more than 10,000 workers have been infected or exposed to COVID-19.

“Today’s rush by the Trump Administration to re-open 14 meatpacking plants without the urgent safety improvements needed is a reckless move that will put American lives at risk and further endanger the long-term security of our nation’s food supply.

“Since the executive order was announced by President Trump, the Administration has failed to take the urgent action needed to enact clear and enforceable safety standards at these meatpacking plants. We are calling on the White House to end the delays and immediately mandate that all meatpacking companies provide the highest level of protective equipment, ensure daily testing is available for all meatpacking workers, enforce physical distancing at all plants, provide full paid sick leave for any workers who are infected, and establish constant monitoring by federal inspectors to ensure these safety standards are enforced. We cannot wait any longer.” 

Background:

UFCW recently sent a letter to Vice President Pence urgently calling for the White House Coronavirus Task Force to prioritize five safety actions targeted toward the meatpacking industry, including: (1) increased worker testing, (2) priority access to PPE, (3) halting line speed waivers, (4) mandating social distancing, and (5) isolating workers with symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19.

Today, new internal UFCW estimates have confirmed at least 30 meatpacking worker deaths. The union also announced that new estimates show at least 30 meatpacking plants have closed at some point in the past two months. These closures have resulted in over 45,000 workers impacted and a 40 percent reduction in pork slaughter capacity as well as a 25 percent reduction in beef slaughter capacity.

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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 grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

May 5, 2020

UFCW Local 304A member speaks about life as a packinghouse worker during COVID-19 on “The Daily” podcast

When UFCW Local 304A member Achut Deng started her job at Smithfield in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, she was happy to find work that would allow her to build a better life for her three boys than the one she’d had growing up in refugee camps in Africa. Work at the plant is hard, but pays well and offers benefits that have allowed her to support not only herself and her children, but her family back home in Sudan. Every day, she goes to work and takes pride in helping make sure the bacon, ham, hot dogs, and other pork processed at the facility are safe and ready to feed families around the world. But when the coronavirus hit, Deng unexpectedly found herself at the center of the pandemic. Caitlin Dickerson of The New York Times spoke with Deng about her story.

When Deng was a child, there was a terrorist attack on her home in south Sudan. As an orphan, she fled the country and grew up in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. She often went days without any food or fresh water, and many of her friends died. She didn’t know if she was ever going to leave, and learned to take life one day at a time. “I would say it was just surviving because you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, you know?” said Deng.

In 2000, Deng was chosen for a program that relocated Sudanese orphans to the United States. When she got the news she would be leaving for America, she was so happy couldn’t sleep. She moved to Kansas City and started a new chapter in her life. She graduated high school, then went on to community college. After school, she started waitressing before working private security in her early 20s.

She ended up moving to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for the same reason many young people move- to pursue a relationship. “I always tell people I moved to Sioux Falls for a pretty stupid reason,” she laughs. “I was thinking I would find a man. So that was pretty much the reason right there. I moved in with my younger son’s father, then we broke up. “

With so many people dependent on her as breadwinner, Deng had told her ex she would need a job as soon as she moved out, and he told her about the job at Smithfield. Work there was hard, but paid well. “A lot of people came to Sioux Falls because of Smithfield and what it was offering people. I know a lot of Sudanese families came here because of Smithfield.”

Deng put in her application and started right away as a Whizard knife operator trimming the fat from the loin as it zooms past. More than 10,000 pigs are processed there a day, and production at her plant alone accounts for 4-5% of all pork that is processed in the United States.

“When I started? Hard work. Hard work is what I thought of it, but you’re not really thinking of how hard it is, you are thinking of money and everything. Once you get the paycheck, you are able to pay for the apartment. You are able to put food on the table. These are the things that I was thinking.”

“Once you start doing something for the first time, something that you’ve never done, your muscles are going to reject it. Your body is going to reject it. So I was always sore.”

Deng has held a number of jobs in the plant over the years. She became a shift lead and works about 11-12 hours days six days a week. With the overtime and her higher pay, she was even able to take her children to Disney World last year.

“My boys, all three of them, it means I can give them what I never had. Which is a better life at a young age. When I went there, I cried, but it was tears of happiness. I am American by papers. I can bring my kids here. And that was something I did. I was so proud of myself. “

Deng’s also uses her salary to support five family members who are still in Africa. “So this job, it allows me to take care of everybody else, not just my boys. So that’s why I pick up overtime, regardless of me being tired. Every morning when I go to work, I put everything that the company offered me in order to go to work this food that I’m making doesn’t have anything that can go and harm someone. Because this food is going to families. It’s going to children. It’s going to mothers. It’s going to fathers. Uncles. Aunts. Everyone around the world. Working at the meat factory, I’m making food for people around the world. I think of that every day. “

When she and her coworkers first heard about COVID-19, thought it was just something that was going to stay in China. Then as the virus spread to the United States, it was difficult to tell how big of a threat it would be. “Most of us as immigrants and refugees, it’s like, well, maybe people are just being extra about it, you know? Maybe it’s not that bad. For me personally, I’ve been through so much. If this is just like a virus, you’re talking to someone who had malaria, you know? I survived that. So it was like, if it’s going to be like malaria, I can go through it. It’s just going to be like any other thing that I’ve been through. “

But then things changed. Cleaning was stepped up in the plant, but with 150-160 people on each shift and many of them working side by side, Deng and her coworkers started to grow nervous.

Then on Saturday, March 28th, her supervisor pulled her aside and asked if she had any fever or cough. One of the machine operators she had worked with that morning had tested positive, and Deng was sent home to quarantine for two weeks. “I didn’t say it out loud, but I’m thinking, ‘they are being silly.’”

“Monday night I went to bed feeling ok. I woke up about 2am with this sharp pain in my body that just feels like someone has stabbed me. So I went to the bathroom and said, maybe if I take a shower, it will be better. But when the water hit my body, it felt like a bunch of rocks were being thrown at my body.”

Her skin hurt, and by Thursday night her body was so exhausted, even walking was difficult and it felt like something heavy was sitting on her chest. The fear kicked in as she started having trouble breathing, and she refused to fall sleep because she was afraid of not waking up. The experiences from her childhood flooded back, along with the fear that her children would face the same ordeals she went through being an orphan and not having parents to support them. “If I die, my kids will go through the same thing I’ve been through. The loneliness. I’m thinking, I bring these kids to this world. I’ve been through everything I’ve been through and I never had a chance to tell them. They don’t know their mom. They don’t know what their mom went through. All they know is their mom is a work-a-holic, “she would do anything to give us a better life,” that’s all they know. It’s not a perfect world. I make it perfect for them. But if I die, this world is not perfect anymore.”

As more workers got sick, the situation in Sioux Falls started to get nation attention. The number of positive cases kept rising up to more than 800 workers, and the governor called on head of Smithfield to stop production. On April 12th, Smithfield announced indefinite closure, while more and more plants around the country found themselves facing similarly dire circumstances.

An estimated 22 meatpacking plants have closed – including union and non-union plants – at some point in the past two months. These closures have resulted in over 35,000 workers impacted and a 25 percent reduction in pork slaughter capacity as well as a 10 percent reduction in beef slaughter capacity.

Because of the importance of these workers to our national food supply, President Trump issued an executive order compelling these plants to stay open. But UFCW International President Marc Perrone called on the White House not to treat these workers as sacrificial lambs. “To protect America’s food supply, America’s meatpacking workers must be protected,” said Perrone. “The reality is that these workers are putting their lives on the line every day to keep our country fed during this deadly outbreak”

The UFCW is urging the Administration to immediately enact clear and enforceable safety standards that compel all meatpacking companies to provide the highest level of protective equipment through access to the federal stockpile of PPE, ensure daily testing is available for workers and their communities, enforce physical distancing at all plants, and provide full paid sick leave for any workers who are infected. Additionally, to protect the food supply and ensure these safety standards for workers are enforced, these plants must be constantly monitored by federal inspectors and workers must have access to representation to ensure their rights are not violated.

On Monday, the Sioux Falls plant began to partially reopen with about 250 employees. Deng is still recovering, but cannot afford to stay home for a long time. “My focus is to try to take care of myself so that when the company opens back up, then I’m ready to go. So that’s where my focus is.”

“Thank you very much for at least giving me the voice. A lot of people don’t understand, but living in the refugee camp, I don’t take anything for granted. Because of what I’ve been through and because of what I see happening to other kids that did not make it. But I am pretty sure they are looking over me and watching over me and I’m going to make them proud. “

UFCW & COVID 19

 

April 30, 2020

UFCW Local 354 chemical workers respond to COVID-19 by making hand sanitizer, disinfectant for hospitals

Members of UFCW Local 354 who work at GEO Specialty Chemicals in Cedartown, Ga., in partnership with another local company, recently manufactured thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and disinfectant in response to the recent coronavirus outbreak. The members are employed as engineering and process technicians.

The GEO Specialty Chemicals Cedartown facility, which manufactures and supplies chemicals worldwide, was recently approached by the local economic development council and industrial development board about the company’s capability of manufacturing hand sanitizer and disinfectant using an approved World Health Organization formula. In partnership with another local company, Meggitt Polymers and Composites in Rockmart, members of UFCW Local 354 quickly and successfully identified on hand raw materials and converted an idle process reactor in the facility to produce enough sanitizer and disinfectant for 2,500 bottles or over 8,000 pounds of hand sanitizer and disinfectant. The bottles will be distributed to local hospitals and other organizations in the area where there is the greatest need.

“We consider our members to be our greatest asset, and the reason for our long history of success at GEO Specialty Chemicals,” said UFCW Local 354 President Jason Stroup. “This is just an extension of our willingness to work together to show what we are capable of when challenged with a project.”

“This is a small, rural and tight knit community of which I am proud to be a part,” Stroup added. “Currently, it is incumbent upon all people of all walks of life to give of themselves during this time of national crisis to help our neighbors, our communities, and our country and put away our differences. I can speak for everyone at GEO and Local 354 when I say it is the least we can do and what we have done here at GEO for the past 83 years.”

UFCW & COVID-19

April 30, 2020

UFCW calls on USDA and White House to protect meatpacking workers and America’s food supply

Last week, the UFCW sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging Secretary Sonny Perdue to take a series of immediate actions to protect meatpacking and food processing workers and our nation’s food supply during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, including testing and access to personal protective equipment (PPE). The UFCW also sent a letter to Vice President Pence, who leads the White House Coronavirus Task Force, urging him to prioritize the same safety actions for these workers. The UFCW represents more than 250,000 meatpacking and food processing workers across the country.

In the letters to USDA Secretary Perdue and Vice President Pence, the UFCW outlined five immediate steps to protect meatpacking and food processing workers as follows:

  • Prioritize Essential Workers for Testing: In order to ensure the health and safety of workers and protect the food supply, essential workers, such as those in meatpacking and food processing, must be prioritized for testing.
  • Immediate Access to PPE: Though social and physical distancing are essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19, workers still need access to PPE, such as masks and gloves. The reality is that many of our members lack the critical personal protection equipment necessary to do their job and reduce the risk of exposure. It is essential that the USDA, in conjunction with the White House Task force, prioritize all meatpacking and food workers for PPE to ensure the health and safety of these workers and to protect our food supply.
  • Immediate Halt On Line Speed Waivers: In the first two weeks of this month, the USDA’s Food and Safety Inspection Service approved 11 regulatory waivers for poultry plants to increase their maximum line speed. Rather than protect our food supply and workers, these waivers guarantee that workers are more crowded along a meatpacking line and more workers are put at risk of either catching or spreading the virus. It is critical that the USDA immediately cease granting any new waivers and suspend all existing waivers that allow plants to operate at faster speeds.
  • Mandate Social Distancing Where Possible: In order to responsibly protect workers and prevent spread of the disease, companies must enforce and practice six-foot social and physical distancing to the greatest extent possible, even if this means production slows down. Where distancing is not possible, companies should use plexiglass barriers to separate and protect workers, and/or ensure that all workers are provided with masks that can safely be used under these extreme conditions.
  • Isolate Workers Who Show Symptoms or Test Positive for COVID-19: In light of the largest outbreak to date at Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, it is critical to identify and isolate workers who have tested positive or who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19. These workers should be allowed to quarantine at home, with pay, per the recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a press conference call last week, the UFCW released updates on the serious and deadly impact of the COVID-19 virus. Based on the most recent UFCW internal estimates, 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have died. In addition, at least 5,000 meatpacking workers and 1,500 food processing workers have been directly impacted by the virus. The estimates of those meatpacking and processing workers directly impacted includes individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, are awaiting test results, or have been hospitalized and/or are symptomatic.

New estimates also show that 22 plants, both union and nonunion, have closed at some point in the past two months. These closures have impacted over 35,000 workers and reduced pork slaughter capacity by 25 percent and beef slaughter capacity by 10 percent.

During the conference call, the threat to America’s meatpacking workforce was highlighted in very personal terms by five workers who discussed the significant risks they and their coworkers are facing every day in some of the nation’s largest meatpacking facilities. Among the specific risks highlighted by these workers was the challenge posed by a lack of PPE, as well as increased line speeds which make social distancing all but impossible.

“America’s food processing and meatpacking workers are in extreme danger, and our nation’s food supply faces a direct threat from the coronavirus outbreak. If workers in these plants are as essential as our elected leaders say, then it’s about time that our elected leaders provide them with the essential protections they need. Make no mistake, without national safety standards to protect these workers from the coronavirus– more lives will be lost, more workers will be exposed, and our food supply will face jeopardy,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone.

“Across this country, we are seeing the impact when the government fails to take steps to protect these essential workers. It needs to both provide testing and protective equipment and issue clear and direct safety guidelines that companies can and must enforce. This is not just about whether we will have enough beef, chicken, and pork to feed our families. It is – for these workers – a matter of life and death,” Perrone added.

You can read the USDA letter here and the letter to Vice President Pence here.

UFCW & COVID-19

April 29, 2020

UFCW Calls on All U.S. Governors to Enforce CDC Guidelines to Protect Food Supply and Meatpacking Workers From Coronavirus Outbreak

Union for 250,000 Meatpacking Workers Calls on All States for Immediate Enforcement of Safety Standards As Trump Order Mandates Plants Remain Open 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents more than 250,000 meatpacking and food processing all across the country workers, sent a letter to National Governors Association as well as every state’s governor in the country, calling on governors to protect meatpacking and poultry workers during the coronavirus outbreak. The letter was sent as it was reported that President Trump was taking executive action to mandate that meatpacking and poultry plants remain open.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“Meatpacking and poultry workers have been working tirelessly through this health crisis so that millions of Americans continue to have access to the food they need. President Trump’s executive order now mandates that they continue to do so, without any language that ensures their safety. Let me be clear, the best way to protect America’s food supply, to keep these plants open, is to protect America’s meatpacking workers.  

“Every governor has the ability to take key steps and additional safety actions to protect these workers and it is imperative that they do so immediately. To protect our food supply and workers, strong, enforceable safety standards must be implemented in every meatpacking plant. These safety standards must ensure all workers have access to testing and personal protective equipment, social distancing is enforced, and paid sick leave is provided to all workers so that no one comes to work sick.  

“In order to protect our nation’s food supply as President Trump is calling for us to do, we must work together to keep the hard-working men and women in these plants safe. Now, more than ever, this must be a priority for all of our state and national leaders” 

Background:

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidelines on April 26 for meatpacking and poultry workers and employees. In the new letter to governors, UFCW calls the guidelines a step in the right direction but asks governors to both enforce those guidelines and issue additional protective measures.  

The complete letter which can be seen here calls on U.S. governors to enforce CDC guidelines and to issue the following additional measures to protect:

  • Enforce Physical Distancing: Plants must reconfigure the workplace to achieve physical distancing of at least 6 feet, between workers, both on the production floor and off.  Barriers, such as plexiglass barriers, should be used only to reinforce the 6 feet distancing, not as a substitute for 6 feet distancing.  CDC/OSHA does not make this statement, but this type of distancing may require the speed of the line to be reduced, in order to achieve a reduction or minimization in the spread of the virus.
  • Provide Respirators: All workers on the production floor should be provided with N-95 respirators, which will provide the level of protection needed to protect workers from inhaling virus particles.  Employers must additionally do the following to maintain the integrity of the respirators;
      1. Provide a new respirator at the beginning of every shift.
      2. Provide fit-testing.  Replace respirators if damaged or contaminated.
      3. Follow the current CDC guidelines for disinfecting and storing respirators, if respirators are reused.
      4. Provide training on proper donning and doffing procedures, in languages workers understand.
      5. Provide additional time for hand hygiene and for proper donning and doffing of respirators.
  • Provide Testing: All workers, including management, who are currently working in the plant, should be tested for COVID-19.  Ideally, rapid testing of workers, as they enter the workplace, would ensure that workers carrying the virus are not entering the workplace.
  • Provide Mandatory Paid Quarantine: Should a positive case of COVID-19 be identified in the workplace, those in close contact with the infected individual should be identified as well and paid to stay home for the full two weeks.  This would ensure more workers are not infected, or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
  • Protect Workers From Retaliation: The UFCW believes that strong, anti-retaliation protections must be in place in order to ensure that workers who feel ill, or who are suffering from COVID-19, can remain at home, in quarantine for the full period of time recommended by the CDC, until it is safe to return to work.  Workers must be encouraged to report any symptoms of illness, or of COVID-19, while at work, as well as any other safety and health hazards, and not suffer any negative consequences for doing so.  

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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 grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

April 28, 2020

UFCW: Trump Order to Keep Meatpacking Plants Open Must Include Immediate Action to Strengthen Coronavirus Testing and Safety Measures

America’s Largest Meatpacking Union Calls on White House to Immediately Increase Worker Testing, Access to Protective Equipment, and Federal Oversight to Ensure the Safety of All U.S. Meatpacking Plants  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest meatpacking union with 250,000 members across the industry, called on President Trump to take immediate action to support his new order that all meatpacking plants remain open during the coronavirus outbreak.  

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:  

“To protect America’s food supply, America’s meatpacking workers must be protected. The reality is that these workers are putting their lives on the line every day to keep our country fed during this deadly outbreak, and at least 20 meatpacking workers have tragically died from coronavirus while more than 5,000 workers have been hospitalized or are showing symptoms. For the sake of all our families, we must prioritize the safety and security of these workers.  

“While we share the concern over the food supply, today’s executive order to force meatpacking plants to stay open must put the safety of our country’s meatpacking workers first. Simply put, we cannot have a secure food supply without the safety of these workers. We urge the Administration to immediately enact clear and enforceable safety standards that compel all meatpacking companies to provide the highest level of protective equipment through access to the federal stockpile of PPE, ensure daily testing is available for workers and their communities, enforce physical distancing at all plants, and provide full paid sick leave for any workers who are infected. Additionally, to protect the food supply and ensure these safety standards for workers are enforced, these plants must be constantly monitored by federal inspectors and workers must have access to representation to ensure their rights are not violated. 

“All of our country’s elected leaders – federal and state – must work together to ensure that we keep these essential workers safe and our country’s food supply secure.” 

Background 

In the last week, UFCW sent a letter to Vice President Pence urgently calling for the White House Coronavirus Task Force to prioritize five safety actions targeted toward the meatpacking industry, including: (1) increased worker testing, (2) priority access to PPE, (3) halting line speed waivers, (4) mandating social distancing, and (5) isolating workers with symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19. 

Today, new internal UFCW estimates have confirmed 20 worker deaths in meatpacking and food processing. In addition, at least 5,000 meatpacking workers and 1,500 food processing workers have been directly impacted by the virus. Those directly impacted include individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, are awaiting test results, or have been hospitalized, and/or are symptomatic. 

UFCW announced today that new estimates show 22 meatpacking plants have closed including union and non-union plants at some point in the past two months. These closures have resulted in over 35,000 workers impacted and a 25 percent reduction in pork slaughter capacity as well as a 10 percent reduction in beef slaughter capacity

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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 www.ufcw.org.

 

April 28, 2020

New coronavirus report reveals 72 deaths, 5,000 directly impacted among UFCW membership

Today, on Workers Memorial Day, the UFCW released a new update on the growing number of frontline workers who have been exposed, sick, and died from COVID-19. As these numbers continue to rise, we are calling on our country’s leaders to take immediate action.

UFCW Local 338 members at A&J Foodtown in Bellerose took two minutes of reflection this Workers Memorial Day to honor those lost serving their community during the COVID-19 crisis throughout the country.

According to the UFCW’s internal reports, there have been at least 72 worker deaths and 5,322 workers directly impacted among the UFCW’s 1.3 million members who work in grocery, retail, pharmacy, meatpacking, and other essential industries.

Those directly impacted include workers who tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, are awaiting test results, or have been hospitalized, and/or are symptomatic.

“These workers never signed up to be first responders in an emergency, but that is exactly what they are now and they need protections immediately before more lives are needlessly lost,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “The human cost to America’s food, retail, and commercial workers is real and growing.”

“As we remember all of America’s brave frontline workers, across every industry, who have died from COVID-19, we are calling on all of our country’s leaders in the White House, in Congress, and states across the country to strengthen safety standards and take immediate action to protect the millions of workers who are keeping our communities strong throughout the crisis.”

April 28, 2020

UFCW Releases Statement on Workers Memorial Day & Announces Worker Deaths from Coronavirus 

America’s Largest Retail & Food Union Announces 72 Worker Deaths in Grocery, Retail, Meatpacking, and Other Industries; and Over 5,000 Workers Directly Impacted by Coronavirus During Outbreak

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million members in grocery stores, pharmacies, meatpacking plants, and other essential businesses, released a new update on the growing number of frontline workers who have been exposed, sick, and died from COVID-19.

According to the UFCW’s internal reports, which were released on Workers Memorial Day, there have been at least 72 worker deaths and 5,322 workers directly impacted among UFCW members. This covers grocery, retail, pharmacy, meatpacking, and other essential industries and those directly impacted include workers who tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, are awaiting test results, or have been hospitalized, and/or are symptomatic.

On Workers Memorial Day, UFCW is calling on America’s elected and corporate leaders, as well as American shoppers, to take immediate steps to protect these workers before more lives are lost.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s frontline workers in grocery stores, pharmacies, meatpacking plants, and many other essential businesses are putting their lives on the line every day to ensure families have the food and medicine they need to stay safe during this crisis. These workers never signed up to be first responders in an emergency, but that is exactly what they are now and they need protections immediately before more lives are needlessly lost.

“The human cost to America’s food, retail, and commercial workers is real and growing. From grocery stores to meatpacking plants, from senior care facilities to pharmacies, the impact on workers’ lives from this coronavirus is beyond tragic – and this crisis must be stopped before it gets worse.

“As we remember all of America’s brave frontline workers, across every industry, who have died from COVID-19, we are calling on all of our country’s leaders in the White House, in Congress, and states across the country to strengthen safety standards and take immediate action to protect the millions of workers who are keeping our communities strong throughout the crisis. American lives are on the line. We cannot wait any longer. We need action now.”

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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 www.ufcw.org.