April 28, 2020
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.
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 9, 2020
During the coronavirus outbreak, employers, reporters, customers and community groups have been turning to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for guidance on what the government recommended actions are to curb the spread of COVID-19. Yesterday, the UFCW sent a letter to the CDC with our recommendations for safety measures that should be taken in grocery stores, pharmacies, and food packing and processing facilities.
This guidance is based on both the advice of health and safety experts as well as needs we have heard echoed from hard working UFCW members across the country who desperately need better protections in place in order to continue to serve the American public.
“It is absolutely critical that the CDC do more to help protect frontline workers who are at daily risk of becoming infected and even dying from the Coronavirus,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “This is about not just saving the lives of these workers, but also about protecting the customers they serve. It is about protecting and maintaining the safety of our food supply. Keeping these workers safe will help keep America safe. The CDC must act now to issue strong new safety guidance. American lives are on the line. These workers’ lives are on the line. We cannot wait any longer.”
If you are a UFCW member and you are experiencing problems where you work because of COVID-19, please submit a report to us so we can continue to track what is happening across the country.
Grocery Stores and Pharmacies
In-Store Social Distancing
- Limit the number of consumers in a store at any given time to 20 to 30 percent of the store’s capacity.
- Implement procedures to ensure that both employees and customers always remain at least six feet apart.
- Procedures should include a marked “social distancing line” which begins six feet away from all checkout counters.
Improve Disinfecting, Sanitizing & Hygiene Practices
- Employees must be provided with sufficient break times to wash their hands as necessary or, at a minimum, every 30 minutes.
- Sanitize frequent touchpoints, including point of sale terminals at registers throughout the day.
- Provide disinfecting wipes for customers to disinfect carts, as well as at cash registers.
- Designate employee(s) to ensure cleaning guidelines set by the CDC are followed.
- Provide set time to allow for stores to be properly sanitized and re-stocked.
Mandate Wearing of Personal Protective Equipment
- Mandate that all workers wear masks, gloves, and any other personal protective equipment (PPE) available at the workplace.
- Mandate all employers to provide N95 masks, gloves, and other PPE when it becomes available.
Urge Americans to Help Save Lives by Shopping Smart
Call on all Americans to practice the following each time they visit a grocery store or pharmacy:
- Always wear a cloth face cover, ideally a mask, when inside the store.
- Limit number of shoppers to one per family
- Practice social distancing throughout the store – not just at check-out stands.
- Properly discard their own PPE in trash cans.
- Respect special shopping times for seniors.
Food Processing and Packing Plants
Improve Safety Conditions
- Mandate that all employers provide PPE, and that workers wear PPE during the workday.
- Ensure social distancing practices are implemented across the workplace at all times where possible.
- When social distancing is not possible, PPE must be provided and used by all employees. No exceptions.
- Make sure that safety practices are clearly posted throughout facility and are in the necessary languages for employees to read.
- Provide PPEs for workers, including face masks.
Learn more at
April 8, 2020
Senator Sherrod Brown had a personal message for UFCW members hard at work on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis. We appreciate his recognition of their valiant efforts and encourage others in the position to do so to voice their support for the essential workers keeping our communities running.
Thank you to the UFCW members who, right now, are on the job serving the American public. We know that we all have anxieties from this illness and from worries about the future. On top of that are people like UFCW workers who are potentially exposed to this virus who are out doing work while many of us are at home. I am urging this administration to add a pandemic pay so that those workers who are exposing themselves potentially to this virus in food service who are working at grocery stores, who are UFCW members, that they are taken care of. If we care about the dignity of work in this country, we fight for the people who make it work. That means UFCW members who are working to provide us food in our grocery stores around the country.
We agree — any relief package should include “pandemic pay” for ALL food workers who are being exposed to this virus while keeping our communities and our families fed.
For more information, visit www.ufcw.org/coronavirus
April 1, 2020
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.
March 29, 2020
UFCW talks to MSNBC on the risks of leaving Instacart & grocery workers unprotected during the coronavirus outbreak
ALICIA MENENDEZ: With me now is Marc Perrone, he is the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. The UFCW represents Instacart employees in the Chicago area as well as many other grocery store clerks and food processing workers all across the U.S. and Canada. Thank you so much for being with me. Can you give me a sense, Marc, of what these workers are up against?
MARC PERRONE: Well, Alicia, I think they’re up against their health. If they don’t provide the protective equipment that they need, rapid testing, if they don’t provide hand sanitizer, and disposable wipes so that they can clean the surfaces of their vehicles, as well as their hands, they have a very good possibility that they could contract the virus.
They also have the possibility of being able to spread the virus because of the fact that they’re going into all these transmission points to pick up groceries and bring them to different people. You have to think about it for a second. If somebody is getting their groceries delivered to them, they may be under quarantine and if they are under quarantine, it would be a good reason for them to have the protective equipment that they so desperately need.
I also believe that they should be provided with masks. Look, I know that the health care providers, as well as our fire and our police need those masks desperately. But we ultimately need to get those masks into production so that people that are in these transmission points can use them as well to protect themselves and the customers that they are dealing with.
MENENDEZ: There have been discussions within your union, I understand, about designating these workers as emergency responders. How would that designation help?
PERRONE: Well, I think that the designation would help as it relates to the testing. If they get the testing faster as well as the results of those tests can come back faster. In addition to that, a lot of these workers because they may be single mothers are having difficulty finding child care and it would give them access to some of the subsidies that the federal government put in this last bill at $3.5 billion.
And additionally, at some point in time, it would put them in the queue to receive masks once our production in the country got up to the point that we could cover our health care workers as well as our fire, our EMTs, and our police. I think that’s critical.
Unfortunately, there was a big error, a failure as it related to the testing. I think it’s also a failure as it related to our supplies that we needed in order to protect all these people that are out there working every single day trying to make sure we have food on the table and that we’re taking care of if we go to the hospital or if we have to be picked up by an ambulance service.
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 29, 2020
The work UFCW members are doing is mission-critical during this crisis, and they need the necessary protections to keep them and their customers safe. It’s time for every state to recognize our members as a vital part of the front line.
New Jersey governor Phil Murphy had a message for grocery workers on the front lines during the coronavirus outbreak:
“I know you have been working long and hard hours helping our fellow residents, and make no mistake each and every one of your is a vital part of our front line emergency reponse team. The work you’re doing to ensure that our families are provided for is mission critical to our getting through this emergency. I know this time to be hard on you personally and professionally. I know you need and deserve to be protected on the job”
March 25, 2020
UFCW International President Marc Perrone spoke with MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle about the compensation and protection won by grocery and retail employees working during the coronavirus outbreak so far, and the need to extend those increases to other companies.
STEPHANIE RUHLE: As more cities shut down in the wake of the coronavirus, businesses deemed essential, like pharmacies and supermarkets, are still up and running with workers, many at minimum wage working really long days at the front lines of this pandemic.
The United Food and Commercial Workers with nearly 1.3 million members across the food industry in the United States and Canada, has been working with major companies like Stop & Shop, Pepsi, Kraft Heinz, Campbell’s Soup, Safeway, and Rite Aid to implement new policies aimed at keeping those workers safe.
Joining me now is Marc Perrone, he’s president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. Marc, we are seeing more cases of workers who are getting sick. Do we need more protection for them?
MARC PERRONE: Yes, Stephanie, we really do. I can’t stress that enough. I think it is in fact difficult in order to do that, because the personal protection equipment is just not available unless you’re a first responder. And, as seen earlier this morning on Morning Joe, there will be transmission points for this virus if we’re going to stop it. We believe those transmission points will be grocery stores, pharmacies, some of those essential businesses that will have to remain open.
RUHLE: We know some of the bigger chains can afford to do it, but should these people be getting increased wages, given what they’re putting themselves through?
PERRONE: Well, we ultimately believe that they should be getting increased wages, because of the amount of increase of sales per man hour that’s taking place. So, the shareholders and the corporations are doing really well through that process. And those workers are actually delivering that increased productivity. And that’s why we ultimately believe that they should get it and have an opportunity to share in some of that.
We also think that because that is taking place, the owners and the shareholders have a responsibility, when it’s available, to provide that personal protection equipment. Or at least, when it’s not available, to provide screens, plexiglas screens up on each checkstand so it gives them more protection than they presently have right now. We think that’s important and we think it’s critical, and some of our employers have started to do that systematically through their stores.
RUHLE: Whole Foods and its owner Amazon have faced major backlash on their policies towards workers. Whole Foods even saying that those who could not work peak hours could lose their full-time status and health benefits. Have they changed their policies in any meaningful way in the last week or so?
PERRONE: Whole Foods is a non-union corporation owned by Amazon, and I do believe it’s Amazon’s position as well as Whole Foods’ position to maximize their profits right now, even at the expense of the workers. I think it’s a terrible thing to do. I think it’s irresponsible. I think it’s irresponsible as it relates to what they’re doing for their customers.
If people believe, for instance, they can’t go to work, because if they don’t go to work, they’re going to lose their health care, here’s what’s going to happen. They’ll show up at work, whether or not they’re sick or not sick. And if that takes place, it’s just like I said earlier, it could be a transition point that’s going to take place at some of these stores.
That’s the reason why we’re fighting so hard to make sure workers who are impacted by the virus, in other words, they have symptoms, that they can ultimately themselves take themselves out of the public and protect the customers that they’re wanting to serve as well as their co-workers that are serving us, to make sure we have food on the shelves and that we’ve got everything available to us.
It’s the same way with the packing and food processing sections that we are connected with. Those workers are working in close proximity to others, and it’s necessary for them to be able to take themselves out of the assembly line on positions, so that they ultimately can protect each other. because many of those places are locate in more rural parts of the United States where health care systems are already stretched to the limit, as well as there’s not as many workers in those outlying areas that they can draw upon to replace very quickly.
RUHLE: Thank you so much.
March 25, 2020
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
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.
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.
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.
Wash 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.
Wipe 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.
For updates related to COVID-19, please visit www.ufcw.org/coronavirus.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.