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    UFCW Blog

April 7, 2020

BBC: Can you kill coronavirus with UV light?

Among the abundant “health” advice currently swarming around the internet, the idea that you can disinfect your skin, clothing or other objects with UV light has proved extremely popular. There’s only one type of UV that can reliably inactivate Covid-19 – and it’s extremely dangerous. “You would literally be frying people,” says Dan Arnold, laughing in disbelief.

April 7, 2020

CNN: This nurse demonstrates just how fast germs spread even if you’re wearing gloves

On a recent trip to the grocery store, Molly Lixey, a former emergency room nurse in Saginaw, Michigan, told CNN she noticed a lot of people wearing gloves, which she thought was great. But what wasn’t so great? All the cross-contamination she saw.
In an off-the-cuff Facebook video, Lixey decided to demonstrate just how quick and easy it is to spread germs at a grocery store.
“I was doing some painting around the house and it hit me that paint would be a perfect medium to use to explain this (cross contamination),” she told CNN. “It terrifies me to think people believe they’re safe only because they are wearing gloves and not have them be aware that they could still be harming themselves or others,” she said.

April 7, 2020

BUZZFEED: 19 Things You Absolutely Must Stop Doing To Grocery Store Employees In The Age Of Coronavirus

As the coronavirus pandemic gets more intense with each passing day, it’s time to acknowledge some absolute heroes among us: grocery store workers.

April 7, 2020

THE HILL: Grocery Unions Protect Workers and save Lives

Researchers have long known that unionized workplaces – whether in mining, construction, manufacturing or warehouses – are significantly safer for employees than non-union workplaces. Now we are learning in real time that the same is true for grocery workers, who have been unexpectedly thrust onto the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. Previously treated as “unskilled” and “disposable,” grocery workers are now recognized as essential personnel who are helping to keep millions of Americans alive. From coast to coast, United Food and Commercial Workers union (UFCW) locals are pushing grocery corporations to adopt measures that will help protect both workers and shoppers

April 7, 2020

CBS: How to take off disposable gloves properly amid COVID-19 pandemic

If you’re wearing disposable gloves while out during the coronavirus pandemic, there is a proper way to take them off so you don’t contaminate your hands.

April 7, 2020

CDC: Use of Cloth Face Coverings to Help Slow the Spread of COVID-19

CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

April 7, 2020

Albertsons and UFCW Launch Joint Effort To Classify Grocery Workers as First Responders During Coronavirus Outbreak

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Announces New Partnership with Major Grocery Chain in Full-Page New York Times Ad Campaign

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Albertsons Companies — which employs more than 250,000 grocery workers across the country at Safeway, ACME Markets, Jewel Osco, Vons, Pavilions, and Albertsons supermarkets — joined the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union, in announcing a joint national effort to seek a temporary designation of “extended first responders” or “emergency personnel” for supermarket associates to ensure that they are prioritized for testing and provided personal protection equipment during the coronavirus outbreak.

The UFCW is announcing the joint effort to address workplace and public safety in an open letter to our nation’s policymakers and influencers in a full-page advertisement in today’s New York Times print edition of the newspaper.

Albertsons Companies President & CEO Vivek Sankaran and UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“Since the onset of this pandemic, associates in Albertsons Companies stores, who are also proud members of UFCW union, have been working tirelessly to make sure that America’s families have the food and groceries they need. These men and women are sacrificing every day to protect our nation’s food supply, and now is the time for our leaders in state and federal governments to do the same for them.

“The temporary designation of first responder or emergency personnel status would help ensure these incredible grocery workers access to priority testing, have access to personal protection equipment, like masks and gloves, as well other workplace protections necessary to keep themselves and the customers they serve safe and healthy.

“This joint action is an example of how all Americans must work together to protect everyone working on the front lines. This includes not only our brave first responders and healthcare workers but also associates at our nation’s grocery stores who are providing communities with the essential food and supplies needed to weather this public health crisis.”

A copy of the New York Times advertisement announcing the joint effort can be seen here.

Background:

Several states have taken measures to ensure grocery store workers have access to similar benefits and protections as first responders:

  • Grocery store workers have access to emergency childcare in the following states: Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York.
  • Governors in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have issued executive orders to ensure grocery stores are safer workplaces.

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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 2, 2020

UFCW Statement: VICE News Exposes Shocking Depths of Amazon’s & Jeff Bezos’ Disregard for Workers & the American People During Coronavirus Outbreak   

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Demands Amazon Fire Senior Leadership Responsible for Shameful Conduct

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents 1.3 million workers in food and retail, responded to a shocking Vice News story that documents both the ruthless smear campaign against Christian Smalls, the Amazon warehouse worker who organized this week’s safety strike, as well as the high level discussions between Amazon executives on how to best utilize surgical masks for public relations value.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“In the middle of a global pandemic with thousands of Americans sick and dying, today we learned that Amazon’s senior leaders – including CEO Jeff Bezos, Amazon SVP of Global Affairs Jay Carney, and Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky – were more focused on attacking one of their own workers than actually keeping their employees safe.

“Even worse, these same senior Amazon leaders weighed ‘different and bold’ ways to gain a public relations ‘win’ from their stockpile of surgical masks – masks that are desperately needed by frontline workers and first responders who are putting themselves in harm’s way every day during this unprecedented public health crisis.

“Every American should be outraged by this conduct. Not only should Amazon’s senior leadership be  investigated by law enforcement and federal regulators for these shameful actions, every Amazon executive responsible for this stunning conduct, beginning with Mr. Zapolsky, should be immediately fired.”

Background:

UFCW has been a leading national voice calling for greater accountability of Amazon and its worker mistreatment. In December 2018, the retail branch of UFCW launched acampaign to unionize Amazon warehouse workers at the same Staten Island fulfillment center where this week’s strike took place.

In February 2020, UFCW called Amazon’s new cashierless grocery store “a clear and present danger to millions of good jobs.” In July 2019, UFCW announced its opposition to a $700 million effort by Amazon to push its own workers out of jobs as it relentlessly automates its warehouse operations. And in May 2019, UFCW called out Amazon for using robots to replace thousands of its workers across the country.

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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’s work during COVID-19 at ufcw.org/coronavirus

 

April 2, 2020

As Coronavirus Outbreak Increases Demands on Meatpacking Workers, Court Advances Lawsuit to Stop Dangerous USDA Rule that Threatens Food Safety

America’s Largest Meatpacking Union and Public Citizen Continue Effort to Halt USDA’s Dangerous New Pork Plant Line Speed Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union and Public Citizen announced that their federal lawsuit to stop the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new swine slaughter modernization rule has been cleared to move forward following a ruling by the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.

The lawsuit filed by UFCW International and UFCW Locals 663, 440 and 2, seeks to halt a USDA rule which eliminates the line speed limits in pork slaughter plants and turns inspection of our food over to the companies that produce it.

“America’s pork workers won an important victory with this ruling as our lawsuit moves forward to stop the USDA’s dangerous line speed rule. As we confront the coronavirus outbreak, these workers are more important than ever to protecting our food supply chain,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “Stopping the USDA’s reckless pork lobby giveaway is essential to the safety of our country’s food and the hardworking men and women who produce it. We are proud to continue this fight to ensure food safety never takes a backseat to corporate profits.”

The nation’s union for meatpacking and food processing workers is challenging the rule as unsafe for workers. The court largely denied USDA’s efforts to dismiss claims brought by the unions.

The ruling, by Judge Joan Ericksen of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, held that the unions adequately alleged that the USDA’s explanations for disregarding the impact on worker safety when issuing its rule were not rational. Read more about the case.

Background:

In 2019, the USDA published a new rule for pork meat inspections which removes limits on line speeds in swine slaughter plants and turns over major meat inspection tasks from federal inspectors to meat companies.

  • The UFCW represents about 250,000 workers in the meatpacking and food processing industries and 30,000 workers in pork plants. UFCW members handle 71 percent of all hogs slaughtered and processed in the United States.
  • In May 2018, more than 6,500 UFCW members who work in pork plants submitted comments to the USDA in opposition to the proposed rule that would increase the line speeds where they work, threatening both them and the consumers they serve.
  • All the UFCW locals who are parties in the lawsuit represent pork slaughter workers. UFCW Local 663 is based in Brooklyn Center, Minn.; UFCW Local 440 is based in Denison, Iowa; and UFCW Local 2 is based in Bel Aire, Kan. 

The Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection rule will hurt workers across the country. 

Hazards of Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection Rule: 

  • The Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection rule removes all limitations on line speeds in hog slaughter plants which will endanger the health and safety of tens of thousands of workers in the hog slaughter industry.
  • Even at current line speeds, swine slaughter and processing workers face many job risks that can lead to severe injury, illness and death.
  • There is no evidence that line speed increases can be done in a manner that ensures food and worker safety.
  • In 1997, the USDA created a pilot program called the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) which allowed five hog slaughter plants to test a new food safety program.  The hog slaughter pilot program revealed serious safety issues including a Clemens food plant in Pennsylvania which reported injuries severe enough that two workers were hospitalized, and one suffered an amputation.
  • The Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection rule includes no requirement or funding to train plant employees on inspection techniques that were previously performed by USDA inspectors and are now their responsibility.
  • Increased line speeds will disproportionately hurt women and people of color. 

Key Facts About Pork Workers: 

  • Meatpacking workers in hog slaughter plants work in cold, wet, noisy, and slippery conditions making tens of thousands of forceful repetitive motions on each shift.
  • Research shows that the fast pace in pork plants, coupled with the forceful and repetitive nature of most of the jobs, leads to high rates of injuries and health issues.
  • Meatpacking workers are injured at 2.4 times the rate of other industries. These injuries result in lost time or restrictions at three times the rate of other industries and they face illness rates at 17 times the rate of other industries.
  • The previous maximum line speed for swine was 1,106 hogs per hour.

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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

April 1, 2020

UFCW and Kroger announce pay and benefit increase

UFCW and the Kroger Co. announced a new increase to the pay and benefits for the company’s more than 460,000 workers across the country.

Kroger and UFCW have been working closely to ensure that these grocery workers are able to continue to provide the necessary food and supplies to their communities during the coronavirus pandemic. Kroger and UFCW announced the following increases to pay, benefits, and protections for frontline associates across the country:

  • $2 Per Hour Pay Increase which will be paid to hourly frontline associates in retail stores, manufacturing plants, distribution centers, central fills, pharmacies and contact call centers for the next three weeks at which point UFCW and Kroger will revisit discussions.
  • Providing Emergency Paid Leave: This ensures that any associates who are affected by COVID-19 – whether experiencing symptoms and self-isolating, diagnosed or placed in quarantine – can recover with the financial support they need.
  • Additional Cleaning and Sanitizing protocols which include allowing associates to wash their hands and sanitize their registers every 30 minutes.
  • Shortened Store Operating Hours to provide ample time to allow restocking, cleaning, and to provide appropriate rest and relief for associates.
  • Installing plexiglass partitions at check lanes, pharmacy and Starbucks registers across each store.
  • Adding floor decals to promote physical distancing at check lanes and other counters.
  • Earlier Access to Pay: Beginning next week, the Kroger Family of Companies is adding ExpressPay – a new benefit that allows most hourly associates to access some of their pay faster, putting money in their pockets sooner than usual.
  • Financial Assistance for Childcare and Other Needs: Kroger will make $5 million available for those facing hardship, including lack of access to childcare and for those considered high-risk, due to COVID-19 through the Kroger Family of Companies Helping Hands fund.
  • Employee Hotline: Kroger will offer an associate hotline to answer benefit questions quickly.
  • Expanded Health Care Services: Kroger will provide access to mental health services and other benefits to support associates’ mental and physical well-being during this stressful time.

“Today’s increase in pay and benefits is an important first step in our ongoing effort to keep customers and workers safe,” said UFCW International president Marc Perrone. “We will continue to listen to our members and will work with Kroger – and all responsible employers – to provide these incredible members and workers the support and protections they need to be able to do a job that is more essential than ever before.”

This agreement applies to all Kroger banners including Ralphs, King Soopers, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Dillons, and more.

Learn more about what the UFCW is doing to protect workers during COVID-19