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June 30, 2020

UFCW: Congress Must Put Workers First As Corporate Bankruptcies Driven by COVID-19 Threaten Safety of Retirement Benefits for Millions of Americans

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Calls on Lawmakers to Pass Bill to Safeguard Benefits of Workers on Frontlines of COVID-19 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million workers in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and other essential businesses, announced its support for the Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s 16 million retail workers have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic from day one, helping ensure that our country’s families have the food and supplies they need. With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on our economy and driving many retailers out of business, we must not forget these brave workers who have kept our communities running during the crisis.

“This bill protects Americans who lose their jobs when businesses declare bankruptcy, ensuring that these workers receive the pay and benefits they have earned and making clear that these workers should never have to take a back seat to CEO payouts or Wall Street profits. With this pandemic forcing thousands of Americans out of jobs every week, we must put workers and families first.”

Background:

UFCW recently announced that in the first 100 days of COVID-19, there have already been 238 worker deaths and nearly 29,000 workers infected or exposed among its members in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, healthcare facilities, and other essential businesses.

UFCW announced its support today for the Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act to safeguard the retirement security of the 1.3 million workers it represents. The bill is a response to the increase in employer bankruptcies resulting from the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 and aims to protect the employee retirement benefits endangered by these bankruptcies.

The Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act will protect workers by:

  • Improving Recoveries for Employees and Retirees
  • Reducing Employees’ and Retirees’ Losses
  • Restricting Excessive Executive Compensation Programs

Click here to read full background on the legislation.   

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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

June 25, 2020

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Confirms Growing COVID-19 Impact on Frontline Workers

New Numbers Released: Over last 100 Days – 238 Frontline Worker Deaths from COVID-19, Nearly 29,000 Workers Infected or Exposed in Food and Healthcare Sectors 

With Growing Spread of COVID-19, UFCW Announces Key Priorities:

 $15 Per Hour Pay for Frontline Workers and Reinstating Hazard Pay, 

Enforcing Public Mask Mandate in Every County and State, and 

National Public Registry Requiring Companies with 1,000 Employees to Report COVID-19 Worker Exposure and Deaths

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million workers, held a national press conference highlighting the impact and growing danger of COVID-19 on our nation’s frontline workers. During the call, the UFCW announced that over the last 100 days, 238 UFCW frontline workers have died from COVID-19 and nearly 29,000 workers have been infected or exposed to this killer virus.

During the press call, UFCW International President Marc Perrone also announced three new initiatives in response to the growing increase of COVID-19 cases in states across the country. The initiatives to address the impact on frontline workers include: (1) Reinstating hazard pay and establishing a $15 per hour wage for all frontline workers, (2) Establishing a public mask mandate in all 50 states, and (3) Creating a new national public registry to track COVID-19 infections in frontline workers which would require companies with more than 1,000 employees to submit monthly reports on their worker deaths, infections, and exposure.

The following are excerpt of President Perrone’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:

“With our country now 100 days into the COVID-19 pandemic, America’s frontline workers still face many of the same dangers they faced on day one. In grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and healthcare facilities, our country’s frontline workers are still getting sick and dying. It’s high time for America’s CEOs and elected leaders to pull their heads out of the sand and take the strong action needed to protect these brave workers and the communities they serve.

“American workers simply cannot survive with the current patchwork of safety measures taken by only a fraction of companies and states with millions still unprotected and vulnerable. We need real enforcement of the highest safety standards. Even worse, some of our nation’s biggest companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger are still keeping us in the dark and refusing to tell the American people how many of their workers have died or been exposed to COVID-19. Simply put, it is impossible to hold the government or corporate America accountable when they hide the true impact of this outbreak.

“The failure of the Trump Administration to enforce clear OSHA standards is giving giant corporations like Amazon and Walmart a free pass to ignore their responsibility to keep their workers safe and this is exactly why so many frontline workers have become exposed to this virus. There is something fundamentally wrong when the White House and Congress are spending more time trying to let companies off the hook for the health of their workers. Americans deserve better.”

Background:

In today’s report on the first 100 days of COVID-19, UFCW released the following numbers based on internal estimates from UFCW local unions across the country.

UFCW represents 1.3 million workers and among those UFCW members, 238 workers have died, and in the grocery, meatpacking, food processing, and healthcare industries, nearly 29,000 workers have been infected or exposed to COVID-19.

In grocery stores across the country, there have been at least 82 worker deaths and 11,507 workers infected or exposed. April experienced the highest single-month total for grocery worker deaths with 46 supermarket employees killed by COVID-19. May saw the grocery industry’s biggest overall spike in COVID-19 cases with 5,901 new grocery workers infected or exposed.

At meatpacking plants nationwide, there have been at least 65 worker deaths and 14,214 workers infected or exposed. April saw the biggest spike in new COVID-19 meatpacking cases with 8,632 workers infected or exposed. May was the deadliest for the industry with 38 worker deaths last month alone.

In food processing facilities, there have been at least 28 worker deaths and 3,474 workers infected or exposed. April was the deadliest month for the industry with 19 food processing worker deaths, and was also the month with the biggest spike in cases with 2,107 workers infected or exposed.

Healthcare facilities have been the frontlines from the beginning. UFCW represents over 60,000 healthcare workers across the country and has confirmed there have been at least 21 worker deaths with 11,478 workers infected or exposed. April was the deadliest month with 13 worker deaths and May saw the biggest spike in new cases with 8,554 workers infected or exposed.

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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

 

 

June 19, 2020

UFCW Statement on Juneteenth 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union, stood with the 1.3 million workers it represents in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and many other essential industries to honor the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth – which marks June 19, 1865 when slavery was officially ended in the United States.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“As millions of Americans commemorate the anniversary of Juneteenth and the end of slavery, we must also remember the racism that still plagues the lives of so many African Americans and people of color across our country today. We have not only seen this cruel injustice of racism in the murders of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many more across the country, but also in an economic system where large multi-billion corporations continue to exploit African American workers. Now, more than ever, we must say with one united voice that this must end – and that Black lives do matter.

“The simple fact is that as a nation we can no longer tolerate the hate and discrimination that has been permitted to permeate our economic and justice systems. This must end. We must embrace real and substantive change. We can no longer afford to ignore a justice system that is not equal, and we must not accept an economic system where large corporations ignore how their policies and actions negatively impact African American workers.

“Our diverse union family is committed to fighting for real change and an America where all African Americans – and people of color – are able to live a better and more just life. The time has come for all good people to commit to doing the same.”

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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.

June 19, 2020

Explosion of COVID-19 Cases Nationwide Makes Clear America’s Food Retailers Must Reinstate Hazard Pay

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Calls on Top Companies Like Kroger for Action As Health Threat to Grocery Workers Continues 

WASHINGTON, DC – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union which represents 1.3 million workers in grocery stores and other essential businesses, called on America’s largest supermarket chains, like Kroger, to immediately reinstate hazard pay in light of an explosion of COVID-19 cases nationwide with 10 states reporting their highest average of daily new cases since the pandemic started. 

The failure to reinstate “hazard pay,” or what Kroger called “Hero Pay,” not only ignores the continuing health and safety threat faced by America’s 3 million grocery workers, but ignores the reality that grocery workers contributed to record sales supermarket companies are experiencing, including Kroger, which just announced total sales reached $41 billion in the latest quarter, a 19 percent increase from one year ago. 

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement: 

“Across the country, America’s food retailers have ended hazard pay even as COVID-19 health risks have increased for grocery workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. Even worse, multi-billion-dollar companies like Kroger are raking in record sales just weeks after cutting hazard pay for the very grocery workers who made that success possible.  

“The decision by these companies to end COVID-19 hazard pay, despite the ongoing danger, ignores the simple fact that these essential workers are still on the frontlines of a growing pandemic. As the nation’s largest grocery chain, Kroger should be a leader in the industry instead of ignoring the serious health and economic effects faced by these brave workers. 

“As long as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, every grocery worker in America must receive the hazard pay they have earned for the vital work they are doing to serve our communities as the danger continues. Moreover, every company that is seeing record profits and sales should realize that these brave workers are literally putting their lives on the line to help feed this nation – and they deserve better than a pay cut from companies like Kroger.” 

Background 

Kroger announced that sales increased 19 percent and profit increased 57 percent in the past quarter since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with total sales reaching $41 billion. 

In a recent national press conference, Kroger workers represented by UFCW spoke out about the company’s decision to cut the hazard pay they had received for working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

In May 2020, the UFCW sent a letter to top grocery CEOs across the country condemning them for suggesting that the health risks of this pandemic have diminished, and failing to provide the pay and protections necessary given the risks that America’s grocery workers face. 

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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

 

June 18, 2020

Supreme Court Upholding DACA a Victory for Millions of Hardworking Families Across America

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union, Representing 1.3 Million Workers, Calls Ruling Critical Step Toward Fixing Broken Immigration System 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food  and retail union which represents 1.3 million workers, praised the U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“Today’s Supreme Court decision to uphold DACA is a powerful victory for millions of hardworking families across America who are keeping our economy running and communities strong during the coronavirus outbreak. DACA has always been about investing in these young people who are working hard to build a better life for themselves and their family.

“With so many of these young people on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic working to ensure our families have the food and supplies we need, it’s more clear than ever that we need permanent solutions that will protect these essential workers.

“Today’s DACA victory is an important step toward fixing our country’s broken immigration system, but our elected leaders – both Republicans and Democrats – must work together to find permanent bipartisan solutions that will end the uncertainty for these hardworking communities.”

Background:

UFCW is one of the leading organizations which brought a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s elimination of the program and represents 1.3 million workers in grocery stores, retail businesses, meatpacking plants, healthcare, and many other industries impacted by DACA.

The lawsuit, in which UFCW served as a co-plaintiff, was led by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and brought against President Donald Trump, the U.S. Attorney General, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security in September 2017.

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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

June 12, 2020

Facebook Censorship of Worker Efforts to Unionize Threatens Push to Strengthen Protections for Essential Workers During COVID-19 Pandemic

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Calls on Facebook to Immediately Shut Down Feature Allowing Companies to Censor Employees 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million members, condemned Facebook for pushing a tool that allows companies to censor communications among their workers about unionizing. A new report details how Facebook Workplace, an intranet-style chat and office collaboration product, would enable employers to blacklist words like unionize in communications on the platform.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“Facebook’s new tool allowing companies to censor workers trying to unionize is a shocking abuse of power and a dangerous threat to the ability of all workers to exercise their right to join a union.

“Whether it’s Amazon firing workers who organize protests or Whole Foods using store surveillance to track employee efforts to unionize, it is clear that giant corporations are more emboldened than ever to shut down any effort by workers to make their voices heard.

“With millions of American workers in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and other essential businesses continuing to be infected by COVID-19, there has never been a more important time to protect the right of these workers to speak out for the protections they need. Facebook must immediately shut down this dangerous new tool that censors employee efforts to unionize, and end all efforts to silence workers standing up for the better pay and protections they have earned.”

Background:

UFCW has been a leading national voice calling for great accountability from technology companies like Facebook in response to efforts to stop workers from unionizing and speaking out for the protections they need on the job.

In February 2020, UFCW supported the successful effort of Instacart workers at a Mariano’s store in Skokie, Illinois to unionize and join UFCW Local 1546. These Instacart workers made history as the first workers with the company to join a union.

In December 2018, the retail branch of UFCW launched a campaign to unionize Amazon warehouse workers in New York. UFCW has been a vocal critic of both Amazon and Whole Foods for the treatment of their workers.

In March 2020, UFCW called out Amazon and Whole Foods for failing to provide their workers with paid sick leave until after testing positive for COVID-19. With testing incredibly scarce, this policy has left thousands of workers across the country in limbo, putting their safety and the safety of customers at risk during the outbreak. Last year in September 2019, UFCW condemned the move by Amazon to cut healthcare coverage for part-time Whole Foods 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 at ufcw.org

June 10, 2020

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Calls on Congress to Protect Essential Workers As Coronavirus Deaths and Infections Increase

UFCW Calls on Republicans and Democrats to Pass Legislation to Protect and Support Frontline Workers in Grocery Stores, Meatpacking Plants, and All Essential Businesses

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is calling on Congress to immediately act to pass legislation to ensure adequate protections for essential workers’ health, safety, and financial security. In testimony to a U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing, the union made clear that it is vital that America’s frontline workers and America’s food supply remain safe and are protected. Click here for full video.

The following is an excerpt of testimony from UFCW International President Marc Perrone, as prepared for delivery:

“All across this country, our healthcare, food, and retail workers are risking their health and safety to ensure that the American people have the food, supplies, and medical care they need during this crisis. Essential workers – as so many of you have called them – have earned essential protections. Jobs that face high risk, as these do in the COVID-19 world we are living in, must be provided the protections, benefits, and wages that reflect that high health risk.

“Our internal estimates have confirmed 225 of our members have tragically died and over 29,000 have been sick or been exposed. Some responsible employers like Cargill and Safeway, have done what is right. Others, including Amazon, Walmart, and even union employers like Kroger, have decided to put profits over people. The brutal reality is that far too many companies are failing to protect workers – and it is time that Democrats and Republicans step up and work together to do more.

“Millions of workers who lack access to paid sick days and paid family and medical leave are facing the devastating choice between risking their own health or risking the loss of a paycheck or job. 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. Without these actions I can promise you that more Americans will needlessly get sick and die.”

UFCW supports legislation to compensate the families of essential workers who die as a result of COVID-19 or related complications and a cash benefit to essential workers who are hospitalized due to the novel coronavirus and recover.  In addition, UFCW supports uniform paid sick leave policies that are accessible to all to flatten the curve and prevent a second wave of infection.

Background:

Today, UFCW President Marc Perrone testified and participated in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing entitled “No Worker Left Behind: Legislation Honoring Essential Workers.”

In his testimony President Perrone called on Congress to act to protect, support and compensate essential workers by passing legislation that:

  • Compensates the families of essential workers who die as a result of COVID-19 or related complications.
  • Provides a cash benefit to essential workers who are hospitalized due to COVID-19 and recover.
  • Expands the paid sick days and paid family leave benefit that was included in the second stimulus bill, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201).
  • Requires companies to prioritize meatpacking and food processing for COVID-19 testing; provide PPE free of charge; and protect workers from retaliation for speaking out about safety issues.

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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

June 10, 2020

Iowa Meatpacking Unions Call on Gov. Reynolds, State Leaders to Reject Bill Exempting Businesses from COVID-19 Worker Safety Requirements

Union for Thousands of Iowa Meatpacking Workers Call for Defeat of State Legislation Waiving Business Liability for Protecting Workers Threatened by Coronavirus

DES MOINES, IA — Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local Unions 230, 431, 617, 440, 1149, 6 and 222 – which represents approximately 15,000 Iowa meatpacking workers across the state – announced its strong opposition to new state legislation that would offer coronavirus liability waivers to irresponsible companies and allow them to ignore critical worker safety issues. 

UFCW Local Unions 230, 431, 617, 440, 1149, 6 and 222 released the following joint statement from their presidents:

“Iowa meatpacking workers across our state have been putting their lives on the line every day to ensure that our families have the food we need during this pandemic. Keeping our communities safe and food supply secure starts with protecting these brave frontline workers. 

“With Iowa meatpacking workers continuing to die and become infected by COVID-19 every week, it is shocking to see state leaders push such a dangerous bill that will allow giant companies to abandon their responsibility to keep these Iowa workers safe. This legislation is a threat not only to these workers, but to our food supply and the millions of Iowa families these workers proudly serve. Governor Reynolds and state legislators must immediately reject this corporate giveaway and put the safety of hardworking Iowa families first above all else.” 

These presidents: Steve Sines of Local 230, Bob Waters of Local 431, Gunther Anderson of Local 617, Leo Kanne of Local 440, Roger Kail of Local 1149,  and Don Von Bank of Local 6 together represent tens of thousands of Iowa workers. 

“For 31 years, I’ve proudly worked in Marshalltown to help families across Iowa put food on the table. This has always been a good job that’s helped me support my family, but with the coronavirus outbreak, I worry every day about getting sick. The last thing we need is a law that gives companies a free pass to ignore safety at a time when we need the strongest worker protections possible,” said Sherry Hart, a member of Local 1149 who works at JBS. “Our leaders should be standing up for Iowa meatpacking workers, not covering for big companies that fail to keep their employees from getting sick.”

“As long as Iowa meatpacking workers like me are getting sick and coronavirus continues to put us at risk, our leaders should be focused on keeping us and our communities safe. I was shocked when I heard that Governor Reynolds is considering letting companies off the hook for protecting workers,” said Memori Cleveland, a member of Local 222 who works at Seaboard Triumph in Sioux City. “In a crisis like this, our families deserve better.”

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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 28, 2020

American Farmers, Ranchers and Food Workers Call for Better Worker Protections at Meatpacking Plants to Stop COVID-19 Outbreaks and Protect Food Supply

Diverse Group Makes Urgent Call on Trump Administration to Take Immediate Safety Steps to Prevent Ongoing Spread of COVID-19

Union Announces New Numbers: At Least 44 Meatpacking Worker Deaths and Over 3,000 Meatpacking Workers Testing Positive for COVID-19

SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents over 250,000 workers in meatpacking and food processing, joined with a diverse group of American farmers and ranchers from Dakota Rural Action (DRA), Northern Plains Resource Council, Western Colorado Alliance, and the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) to call on meatpacking companies, the Trump Administration, as well as state and local governments, to take immediate and stronger steps to protect frontline meatpacking workers and our food supply from the deadly COVID-19 virus.

“The best way to protect our food supply is to protect the people who work within it,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “From frontline food processing workers to farmers and ranchers, we are all critical to keeping American families fed during this crisis. Enacting strong worker safety standards inside meatpacking plants will help people outside of them as well and ensure every link in our food supply chain is secure.”

The broad coalition which came together to protect workers and the food supply is calling on meatpacking companies to take immediate safety steps to stop the ongoing spread of COVID-19, which include, but are not limited to: (1) increased worker testing at meatpacking plants, (2) priority access to PPE for all meatpacking workers, (3) halting line speed waivers, (4) mandating social distancing inside meatpacking plants, and (5) isolating workers with symptoms or who test positive for COVID-19.

The need to take these immediate safety steps reflects the significant threat still facing America’s meatpacking workers. According to the UFCW internal estimates, there have already been at least 44 meatpacking worker deaths and over 3,000 meatpacking workers testing positive for COVID-19. Because of the continuing spread, at least 30 meatpacking plants have closed at some point since March 2020 – with closures impacting over 45,000 workers and contributing to a 40 percent reduction in pork slaughter capacity as well as a 25 percent reduction in beef slaughter capacity.

The following statements are from the leading members of the diverse coalition:

“Too many workers are being sent back into meatpacking plants without adequate protections in place, reigniting more outbreaks in the plants and our communities,” said Nick Nemec, a farmer, cattle producer and DRA member from Holabird, SD. “Leadership at all levels has shown a lack of support and concern for the workers and the farmers. A safe food system starts with the safety and respect of those doing the work to produce and process the food. Our current system fails because it treats farmers and workers with little respect and little regard for our safety.”

“We support the workers’ call for mandatory worker protections,” said Kathryn Bedell, rancher and Western Colorado Alliance member from Fruita, CO. “If they don’t get protective equipment and safe working conditions, the food system will remain vulnerable and we all lose – producer, workers and consumers. For too long, the government agencies have stepped back and allowed global meatpacking companies to voluntarily comply with antitrust laws. We know from firsthand experience that this is a failed approach, because it has allowed the meatpacking cartels to manipulate prices paid to livestock producers to the detriment to our livelihoods, and to the detriment of our rural communities who depend on the cattle business.”

“Safe food starts with safe workers,” said UFCW Local 304A member John Massalley who works at Smithfield in Sioux Falls, SD. “When meatpacking plants struggle to contain this virus, it’s not just the workers inside like me who are at risk, family farmers and ranchers are too. Regular testing is critical to stopping future outbreaks, keeping workers safe and protecting our food supply.”

“This pandemic didn’t create the crisis for workers and producers in the meat industry, but it has made a horrific situation even worse,” said Steve Charter, a Shepherd, MT rancher and Northern Plains Resource Council board member. “The consequences of this rigged system are now threatening the lives of meatpacking workers at the same time they’re killing the livelihoods of family ranchers. If leaders want to address this crisis, they need to start with enforcing antitrust laws, instead of abusing emergency authority to force workers to endanger their health. We must use this opportunity to create decentralized, local and regional food systems that are better for producers, consumers, and workers. Now, more than ever, we need policies that help folks who wear boots to work each day instead of shining the shoes of executives in board rooms.”

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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.

Dakota Rural Action (DRA) organizes people and builds leadership while developing strong allied relationships. We protect environmental resources, advocate for resilient agriculture systems, and empower people to create policy change that strengthens their communities and cultures. 

Northern Plains Resource Councils is a grassroots conservation and family agriculture group that organizes Montanans to protect our water quality, family farms and ranches, and unique quality of life.  

Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action brings people together to build grassroots power through community organizing and leadership development. We believe that right now, today, we have the ability and opportunity to create a future where engaged local voices are leading communities across Western Colorado that are healthy, just and self-reliant. 

The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) is a network of eight grassroots organizations in seven Western states with 15,000 members, many of them ranchers and farmers committed to common-sense reform in agriculture, oil and gas development, coal mine reclamation, and rural economic development. Headquartered in Billings, Mont., WORC also has offices in Colorado and Washington, D.C.

 

 

 

May 20, 2020

In National Coronavirus Press Conference, America’s Largest Food & Retail Calls on Top Supermarket Companies to Reinstate Hazard Pay

As Hazards Facing Grocery Workers Continue, UFCW Announces At Least 68 Grocery Workers Have Died and Over 10,000 Exposed or Infected in COVID Pandemic – More Than Double the Number of Deaths and Infections 5 Weeks Ago Walmart, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Kroger Condemned for Failing to Release Numbers on Worker Deaths and Infections and for Ending Hazard Pay for Millions of Grocery Workers 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million workers in grocery, meatpacking, food processing and other industries, hosted a national press call with leading reporters from across the country to address the fact that many of America’s largest supermarket and food retail companies – including Kroger, Walmart, and Amazon – have recently ended so-called “hazard or hero pay’ even as the pandemic continues across the country. Click here for the full video recording of the press conference.

During the call, UFCW International President Marc Perrone called on these companies to immediately reinstate this essential pay until the need to wear masks and other protective measures are no longer necessary.

As a measure of the real and growing risk of the public health crisis facing grocery workers, the UFCW also released new internal numbers that at least 68 grocery workers have died and more than 10,000 have been infected or exposed. During the call, UFCW called on every leading food retailer to ensure public health by releasing the number of their food retail and supermarket workers who have died or become sick and/or exposed to COVID-19.

Excerpts of prepared remarks by UFCW International President Marc Perrone are below:

“As this pandemic continues, the threat of this virus is real across every grocery store in America. Yet, most states and supermarket chains are still failing to enforce social distancing or mask wearing in stores to keep customers and workers safe. Even worse, Walmart, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Kroger have failed to release internal numbers on worker deaths, infections, and exposure. Amazon even fired workers brave enough to speak out.

“Amazon, Whole Foods, Kroger, and other companies have shamefully announced pay cuts for millions of these workers on the frontlines, even as each company experiences record sales. When workers face higher risks, they should be paid more. These workers are not facing fewer hazards and are still putting themselves in harm’s way, interacting with thousands of customers a day, to help ensure our families have the food we need.

“While we hope some of these companies do change, and follow the lead of other national companies like Albertsons and Ahold who acted responsibly to extend this hazard pay, we are preparing options to ensure that every American knows which supermarket companies stood by their workers and their families and which did not. American consumers and workers deserve better and we will continue to stand with them.”

Grocery Workers Speak Out

As part of the call, Kroger grocery workers from across the country spoke about the serious risks they face, and how Kroger eliminating its ‘Hero Pay’ has had a damaging effect on them and their co-workers. The following are statements from these grocery workers.

“Five people in my household work for Kroger and together, we put in about 250 hours per week. When Kroger gave us ‘Hero Pay,’ it felt like we mattered and they were recognizing the risks we are taking. Every day, you fear that you might catch the virus at work. You fear that you might take the virus home to your family. I’ve had customers swear at me when we ask them to wear a mask. One customer even told me I might be dead in a month. After work each day, I want to cry, but I don’t have the tears to cry because it’s not going to make things better. We are working longer hours under stressful conditions. At my store, they take daily temperature scans, but the thermometers the company provides us don’t work. Kroger and all grocery companies need to provide the protective equipment, testing, and essential pay that all of us need so that we can keep our stores operating safely. Our lives are on the line,” said a Ralphs grocery worker in San Diego, California.

“There is a lot of fear in my store because of the virus. Every day, we prepare like we’re going into battle with the virus. We are exposed to thousands of people every day for hours and the reality is it only takes one person to expose an entire store. Kroger ended our ‘hero pay,’ but the crisis is not over. I face each day with anxiety and it gets worse when I see customers refuse to wear masks. I am a mother and my children need me to stay healthy,” said a Kroger meat department worker in Lansing, Michigan.

“Since the coronavirus outbreak began, I’ve been working 60-70 hours a week. As a cashier, it’s hard to social distance from customers. We put our lives on the line every day and I worry about taking the virus back to my grandchildren or husband. When Kroger took away our ‘Hero Pay,’it felt like a slap in the face. Because Kroger is not requiring our customers to wear masks, it’s putting us in jeopardy. The spread of the virus hasn’t stopped, so neither should the protections or ‘Hero Pay’ that our families need ,” said a Kroger cashier in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

“Since Kroger ended ‘Hero Pay,’ I’ve seen the morale in my store go down. My co-workers and I are facing the same struggles and risks, but now the company suddenly doesn’t want to recognize that. What changed? Kroger – and every supermarket company – should pay every grocery worker in America for the risk we are all facing, until this pandemic is over,” said a front-end Kroger worker in Columbus, Ohio.

 Background:

UFCW has been a leading national voice calling for action to support and protect grocery workers who are on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the UFCW sent a letter to the CEOs of top supermarket chains across the country condemning them for suggesting that the health risks of this pandemic have diminished, and failing to provide the pay and protections necessary given the risks that America’s grocery workers face.

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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.