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Biden Michigan Remarks Highlight Need to Support Michigan Frontline Workers as COVID-19 Cases Surge

October 2, 2020

UFCW, Union For 44,000 Michigan Workers, Stands with Biden in Call for National Mask Mandate, Hazard Pay, and Essential Worker Protections

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Today, Vice President Joe Biden delivered remarks on the need to support America’s frontline workers, including the 1.3 million food and retail workers represented by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). Standing with Vice President Biden today, the union for 44,000 Michigan workers highlighted the need to restore COVID-19 hazard pay as health risks continue for grocery workers and others on the frontlines.

Michigan Workers at Biden Event Highlight Key Priorities

Jerry Young is a COVID-19 Survivor and UFCW Local 876 grocery worker Madison Heights: 

“I caught COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic, was put into a medically-induced coma, and nearly died from a heart infection and blood clot. I left the hospital with $225,000 in medical bills, worried it would bankrupt our family. But I was fortunate my UFCW union healthcare paid for almost everything. The danger from COVID is just as real today as it was 6 months ago, but big grocery chains cut hazard pay just weeks after the pandemic started. Many grocery chains still refuse to reverse these pay cuts for Michigan workers like myself, even as we continue to face daily health risks on the job. Vice President Biden fought to protect the jobs of Michigan autoworkers like my parents and I know he will continue to stand with Michigan workers as president.”

Matt Hofmann is a grocery worker in Davison represented by UFCW Local 876:

“Michigan grocery workers like me have been working around the clock to help make sure families have the food they need during this crisis. I live in a small town and our community has been devastated by COVID-19 and the damage it has done to our economy. In 2016, I voted for Republicans thinking they would put Michigan workers first, but that’s not what happened. Instead, the past four years have just been broken promises and leaders in Washington who aren’t helping Michigan workers like me. The COVID-19 risks Michigan workers are facing are real. We interact with the public every day. We are vital to the food supply. But we can’t do our job if we are not protected. I know Vice President Biden will stand with Michigan workers and that’s why I’m voting for him in this election.”

Lucille Monsalvo is a grocery worker in Grand Rapids and UFCW Local 951 member: 

“As a working mom with six kids who has supported a family for 45 years, I know how hard Michiganders are working to put food on the table and pay the bills during this pandemic. So many Michigan workers are becoming sick and countless are dying from COVID-19 because they did not have someone looking out for them. That is what America needs now, more than ever, is for our leaders to be looking out for workers like us who are on the frontlines. We need leaders who will hold CEOs of top grocery chains like mine accountable when they cut our worker pay, but pay themselves more through bonuses and stock buybacks. It’s just not right.”

Kristie Beech is a grocery worker in Clarksville and UFCW Local 951 Member:

“Michigan workers like me are still going to work every day scared that we will catch COVID-19. Some of our grocery customers wear masks, but many still refuse. We need a national mask mandate so that every store and state have the same safety standards. Vice President Biden stepped up to call for a national mask mandate and I am so grateful. This is the kind of leadership we need. My husband and his mother are high-risk and it terrifies me to think that I could bring the virus home and put his health in jeopardy. Everything is on the line in this election – jobs, healthcare, and so much more. That’s why I’m voting for Joe Biden.”

Kevin Riley is a grocery meatcutter in Grand Rapids and UFCW Local 951 member getting ready to retire:

“In all my 40 years on the job, I have never seen anything like this pandemic. When the first COVID-19 cases were reported here in Michigan, the shelves of the meat department were completely empty in less than 24 hours. While people are no longer panic shopping, the dangers of this virus are just as real now as they were at the beginning of the pandemic. But despite ongoing risks, grocery chains cut hazard pay for Michigan workers like me, even as they are making record profits. We need leaders in Washington who hold companies accountable when workers are exposed or sick. This election is about whether we are going to have good jobs that protect us, provide affordable healthcare, and keep us safe on the job.”

Background:

UFCW has been a leading national voice in the push to protect frontline workers in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and other essential businesses. Vice President Biden’s recent call for a national mask mandate was praised by UFCW, which has called on the governors of all 50 states to require masks in retail and other public spaces. Senator Kamala Harris recently partnered with UFCW on a CNN op-ed calling for all grocery chains to restore hazard pay as these essential workers continue to put themselves in harm’s way. 

Just weeks after UFCW launched a national hazard pay campaign, the union successfully secured a new agreement to provide retroactive hazard pay for grocery workers across New England, New York, and New Jersey.

UFCW confirmed today that frontline workers continue to be at risk as COVID-19 cases increase nationwide. Among the grocery and retail workers represented by the union, there have already been at least 110 worker deaths and nearly 16,000 workers infected or exposed nationwide.

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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.