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August 11, 2020

Kamala Harris As Biden Running Mate Applauded by America’s Largest Food & Retail Union

UFCW Praises Harris As National Voice for COVID-19 Hazard Pay, Unbreakable Champion for Millions of American Workers on Frontlines of Pandemic  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents 1.3 million workers, announced its support for U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (California) as the running mate for Vice President Joe Biden. From fighting for hazard pay for grocery workers to her championing of the bread and butter issues that matter most to hardworking families, UFCW said that Senator Harris has proven her unbreakable support for all those who work at America’s grocery stores, meatpacking plants, pharmacies, hospitals and other essential businesses on the frontlines of COVID-19. 

UFCW International President Marc Perrone​ released the following statement: 

“This historic ticket will bring the real change our country needs. Senator Kamala Harris’ record and actions prove that she is a strong champion for America’s hardworking men and women. During this pandemic, both Vice President Biden and Senator Harris have highlighted the dangers our country’s frontline workers continue to face. Together, they have made clear that our nation’s CEOs and elected leaders must put these workers first by reinstating hazard pay, expanding COVID testing, and strengthening access to the protective gear these brave workers need to do these essential jobs.  

“As millions of America’s frontline workers continue to put themselves in harm’s way during this pandemic, Vice President Biden and Senator Harris will bring the strong and moral leadership that our nation desperately needs. Most importantly, they will put politics aside, and will do what is necessary to protect all workers, and rebuild our economy so that every hardworking family has the opportunity to succeed.” 

Background: 

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris has been a strong partner for UFCW and a champion for its 1.3 million workers in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and other essential businesses who have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic since day one.

 In a recent CNN op-ed, Senator Harris joined UFCW in calling for restoring hazard pay for America’s 3 million grocery workers who continue to put themselves in harm’s way during the pandemic to ensure families have the food they need.

 In October 2019, Senator Harris joined UFCW members in Iowa to speak about the challenges facing workers across the country. Senator Harris told UFCW members that she would increase accountability for companies that rely heavily on automation and want to do business with the federal government, pledging that she would hold public hearings outlining the impact of automation on the workforce.

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UFCW International is the largest private sector union in the United States. UFCW International represents 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

August 7, 2020

Senator Kamala Harris & America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Call on CEOs to Reinstate Hazard Pay for Grocery Workers As COVID-19 Danger Continues

In CNN Op-Ed, Senator Harris and UFCW Highlight Ongoing Risk With More Than 7,000 Grocery Workers Infected by COVID-19  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) called on the CEOs of the country’s largest grocery store chains to reinstate hazard pay for their workers who are still on the frontlines of the pandemic as COVID-19 cases surpass 4.8 million nationwide.  

In a new CNN op-ed, UFCW International President Marc Perrone and Senator Harris and condemn America’s largest grocery chains for cutting hazard pay for their workers, even as the companies report record sales and the threat from COVID-19 continues to endanger employees. Excerpts from the op-ed are below: 

“Grocery store workers are putting their lives on the line every day that they walk into the store. This pandemic is far from over and the health threats that grocery workers face are just as real now as they were when this crisis began. 

“While top grocery chains rake in billions in profits during this pandemic, these frontline workers cannot choose to work from home like the corporate executives of these companies. Without these frontline workers, our families would not have the food we need to get through this public health crisis.

 “Given the seriousness of this pandemic, and the essential jobs they do, the time has come to reinstate hazard pay for all of America’s grocery workers. For these brave men and women who continue to be on the frontlines of this crisis, our country should demand nothing less.” 

Click here to read the full CNN op-ed from Senator Harris and UFCW. 

Background: 

UFCW has been a leading national voice in the call to strengthen protections and support for America’s 3 million grocery workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. As of today, UFCW confirmed that among its members, there have been at least 97 grocery worker deaths nationwide, with 7,188 grocery workers infected and at least 6,122 grocery workers exposed to COVID-19 

In its report on the first 100 days of COVID-19, UFCW confirmed that 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 monthly spike in COVID-19 cases with 5,901 new grocery 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 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

July 29, 2020

Jeff Bezos and Amazon Must Be Held Accountable by Congress for Failure to Disclose COVID-19 Employee Infections and Deaths, Attack on Worker Rights

Ahead of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Testifying to Congress, America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Calls on Lawmakers to Hold Amazon & Bezos Accountable for Company Failures

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, ahead of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifying to Congress, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million workers, condemned Amazon for blatant efforts to stop employees from exercising their right to join a union and endangering both workers and consumers by failing to disclose internal numbers on how many Amazon employees have been infected by COVID-19. Additionally, UFCW recently challenged Amazon’s antitrust practices in a new complaint to the Federal Trade Commission.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“The time is long past to hold Jeff Bezos and Amazon accountable for their failures and irresponsibility that has consistently placed Amazon profits ahead of the safety and rights of American workers.

“It is outrageous that in the middle of a pandemic, Amazon refused to tell the American people how many of its workers have been exposed, become sick, or died from COVID-19. Even worse, Amazon has fired and attacked its own workers who bravely spoke out against the company’s unethical and irresponsible behavior. Enough is enough.

“Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos must be forced to answer the tough questions and be held accountable by Congress for the company’s blatant attacks on workers, and their failures to keep workers safe as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on our country.”

Background:

UFCW has been a leading national voice calling for greater accountability for tech companies for their worker mistreatment, including Amazon and Facebook whose CEOs are testifying to Congress today.

In April 2020, UFCW condemned Amazon for firing the worker who led the recent strike at its Staten Island facility. In December 2018, the retail branch of UFCW launched a campaign to unionize Amazon warehouse workers. UFCW has also called on Amazon for action to protect its Whole Foods workers as more continue to be infected by COVID-19.

In June 2020, UFCW called out Facebook for creating a tool that allows companies to censor communications among their workers about unionizing. On the Facebook Workplace platform, an intranet-style chat and office collaboration product, the initial design would enable employers to blacklist words like unionize in communications on the platform.

In March 2020, UFCW condemned Instacart for failing to immediately provide the COVID-19 hazard pay and personal protective equipment needed to support and keep their workers safe at the beginning of the pandemic. In February 2020, Instacart workers in the Chicago area joined UFCW, making history as the first Instacart workers to join a union.

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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. 

July 28, 2020

Poultry Workers, Already at Risk From COVID-19, Sue USDA Over Dangerous Line Speeds

 America’s Largest Meatpacking Union, Public Citizen Demand End to USDA Waivers Allowing Dangerous Poultry Line Speeds

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and five of its local unions represented by Public Citizen Litigation Group filed a federal lawsuit to end the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) waivers allowing poultry plants to increase production line speeds and further endanger workers already facing elevated risks during the COVID-19 pandemic. UFCW represents more than 250,000 workers across the meatpacking and food processing industries.

The plaintiffs argue that the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) waiver program should be set aside and 10 currently active waivers should be voided. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that the USDA failed to follow required procedures and ignored the agency’s own rules and policies when it adopted the waiver program. Click here to read the text of today’s lawsuit.

“America’s poultry workers have been on the frontlines of this pandemic since day one, putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure our families have the food we need during this crisis,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “As COVID-19 continues to infect thousands of meatpacking workers, it is stunning that USDA is further endangering these workers by allowing poultry companies to increase line speeds to dangerous new levels that increase the risk of injury and make social distancing next to impossible. This lawsuit will help to finally stop this dangerous corporate giveaway from the USDA. Now more than ever, we must put the safety of frontline workers and our country’s food supply first.”

“The law is clear that an agency must follow proper procedures when adopting a new program and must consider and address all relevant factors, including its own prior positions on the same issue,”said Nandan Joshi, the Public Citizen attorney serving as lead counsel on the case. “FSIS did not follow these basic rules when it decided to allow more poultry plants to exceed the agency’s own regulatory line speed limits.”

Background:

UFCW recently announced that in the first 100 days of COVID-19, there have already been at least 65 meatpacking worker deaths and 14,214 meatpacking 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 month for the industry with 38 worker deaths last month alone.

The five local unions who are plaintiffs in this case – UFCW Local 227, UFCW Local 1529, UFCW Local 1995, UFCW Local 2008 and Retail, Wholesale And Department Store Union – Mid South Council – represent more than 35,000 poultry workers at processing plants in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi and Missouri.

UFCW and Public Citizen have been leading national voices calling on the USDA to strengthen corporate oversight in meatpacking and increase safeguards to protect workers and ensure our country’s food supply is secure. In July 2020, UFCW announced its support for new legislation in Congress to roll back dangerous line speed increases across the meatpacking industry. And in October 2019, UFCW and Public Citizen filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the USDA’s rule allowing pork plants to increase line speeds.

Poultry Worker Safety

Poultry processing poses a wide range of risks to workers, including musculoskeletal problems – such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and “trigger finger” – and acute physical injuries, such as sprains, lacerations, contusions and amputations. Federal and private research, as well as the experiences of poultry workers, show that an increase in work pace caused by faster line speeds increases the risk of injury to workers.

USDA Regulation of Poultry Industry

In April 2020 alone, FSIS approved 15 waivers allowing poultry plants to increase their maximum line speed. These waivers do not protect our food supply, but they create greater risk of worker injury, including increased risk of catching and spreading the virus as workers are forced to crowd together to keep pace with faster processing speeds.

In 2014, FSIS adopted a rule that set the maximum line speed in poultry plants at 140 birds per minute. At that time, FSIS acknowledged the extensive rulemaking record demonstrating that faster line speeds can increase the harm to poultry plant workers. In 2017, the National Chicken Council, a trade association that lobbies for the chicken industry, asked FSIS to lift line speed limits entirely. Although FSIS declined that request, it stated that it would grant more waivers that allow plants to operate at up to 175 birds per minute.

FSIS announced the waiver program in early 2018 but did not follow proper procedures when adopting that program. The Administrative Procedure Act requires an agency to give the public prior notice and an opportunity to comment before adopting a new rule. Instead, FSIS created the program behind closed doors. FSIS justified the program as a way to allow plants to experiment with new technology – even though increasing line speed is not a new technology. FSIS failed to adequately explain why the new waiver program was needed or why the program ignores the worker safety concerns that FSIS had previously acknowledged.

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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

July 23, 2020

America’s Largest Retail Union: Amazon Exploitation of COVID-19 Pandemic Endangers Frontline Workers

UFCW Calls on Federal Trade Commission for Action to Hold Amazon Accountable for Anti-Competitive Practices Putting Workers at Risk 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest retail union with 1.3 million workers, joined a coalition of major labor unions filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging Amazon is exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to further entrench its market dominance and calling on authorities to take action to halt the company’s growing anti-competitive behavior.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“Amazon represents a clear and present danger to American workers and our economy. The company has not only refused to acknowledge the full impact of COVID-19 on its workers, it has exploited this pandemic to increase its market dominance as well as its power over employees throughout its distribution centers.

“With more than one-third of all warehouse workers in the U.S., Amazon has a responsibility to be a leader, and to be setting strong safety standards. Instead, Amazon has chosen to ignore the dangerous working conditions its workers continue to face every day. The simple fact is that a union is the most effective counterweight to protect workers and their families from irresponsible corporate actors like Amazon, especially during a pandemic.

“As COVID-19 continues to endanger tens of thousands of these warehouse workers, federal and state government leaders must hold Amazon accountable for the dangerous working conditions in these facilities and do much more to ensure the health and safety of all of our country’s frontline workers.”

Joining UFCW in the new complaint to the Federal Trade Commission is a broad coalition of groups which includes the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Communications Workers of America, and Change to Win.

“We are highly alarmed by Amazon’s conduct during the unprecedented crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” write UFCW and the coalition in the complaint to the FTC. “Amazon is taking advantage of the economic desperation and upheaval caused by COVID to engage in new or intensified conduct that further entrenches its market power and dominance.”

“The situation is urgent,” the complaint reads, as “COVID-19 allowed Amazon’s role in the economy to metastasize.” Specifically, the unions highlight:

  • Amazon’s power has grown in ecommerce as the pandemic has accelerated a decades-long shift towards online retail;
  • Amazon is leveraging its pandemic-strengthened position to further exploit its power over sellers, who did not abandon the company during the crisis;
  • Amazon now directly employs one-third of all warehouse employees in the country, up from one-quarter before the pandemic, positioning it to further exploit workers; and
  • Amazon has moved aggressively to scoop up start-ups and established companies weakened by the pandemic.

“The crisis has resulted in new weaknesses in our economy, and Amazon has not hesitated to exploit these weaknesses in ways that further bolster its hold on consumers, small businesses, and workers,” the complaint continues.

Background:

Thursday’s submission follows a sweeping petition filed by the five labor organizations in February, calling on the FTC to investigate Amazon’s anticompetitive practices.

Amazon’s Market Share Grows 

The domestic e-commerce sector grew at an accelerated pace during the pandemic and Amazon stands to benefit disproportionately from that growth. Because the offline retail sector has contracted drastically, and is unlikely to recover, Amazon will hold at least 12 percent of domestic retail—offline and on—in only four years even without further growth in its market share.

The company’s overall retail market share, while notable in its own right, does not reflect Amazon’s even starker dominance in individual product categories—a more traditional metric for judging whether the company satisfies the legal definition of a monopoly. For example, Amazon was already a dominant player in electronics, with 45 percent of the domestic ecommerce electronics market in 2019. But its position has strengthened as ecommerce electronics sales have grown at the expense of in-store sales, during the pandemic, increasing 58 percent in April, according to Adobe Analytics, as all in-store sales dwindled.

Exploiting Sellers as the Pandemic Raged 

The pandemic has strengthened Amazon’s grip over sellers, who have not turned to its competitors despite the company effectively cutting them off from online retail entirely during the height of the pandemic.

Amazon’s unilateral decision-making process around essential items was neither predictable nor transparent, kept sellers from accessing and earning income on their own inventory and left them with thousands of “pending” orders placed by impatient customers. Yet in spite of the enormous hindrances Amazon placed on the operations of sellers in the United States, sellers did not shift to competing platforms.

The complaint cites one possible explanation: in response to pandemic-related demand, Amazon increased its “suggested” product inventory levels for third-party sellers. If they did not maintain their “suggested” inventory levels, their products were demoted in search results and lost the “best seller” label that leads to improved sales. As a result, sellers sent all available inventory to Amazon, to the detriment of grocery and other retailers who do not disfavor sellers’ products based on their inventory levels, a ProPublica investigation cited in the complaint revealed.

“Amazon’s actions represent an extraordinary flexing of market muscle and true peril to a free market,” the complaint reads. “A company that will amass all available supplies of certain goods begins to look alarmingly like a monopsonist exercising market power. “Action such as this during a national pandemic would exploit desperate companies and people for considerable gain.”

Gaining Even More Power Over Warehouse Workers

Amazon already held a dominant share of many local warehousing and storage labor markets before it announced the hiring of 175,000 new warehouse workers, including 125,000 permanent ones, during the pandemic. As a result of its rapid expansion at a time the overall national labor market was contracting, the company gained even more power over vulnerable workers.

The company took full advantage of this power imbalance. According to a nationwide survey of 4,348 Amazon workers that Change to Win conducted between April 29 and May 9, more than a third of all Amazon workers surveyed—including those employed by Whole Foods grocery stores, and those employed by contractors staffing Amazon warehouses—specifically reported receiving no training about hazards associated with COVID-19; among warehouse workers surveyed, this proportion reached 41 percent. This was the case despite the fact that, according to the survey respondents, six in ten Amazon workers were aware of confirmed COVID-19 cases at their workplaces.

“Regulators should be concerned that Amazon’s growth as an employer has outpaced that of the warehouse sector as a whole,” the complaint reads. “Amazon’s clear awareness of its near-absolute power over warehouse workers’ wages and working conditions, exemplified by Amazon’s persistent disregard for the health and safety of these same ‘essential’ workers, indicates the consequences that such growth can have.”

Pouncing on the Weak

In the midst of all of COVID-driven market conditions, Amazon took advantage of several opportunities to acquire companies or otherwise expand its business, in ways that should be expected to further increase its power across a range of markets or market segments.

The company announced that it was acquiring self-driving vehicle start-up Zoox in late June 2020, after the six-year-old company had laid off 120 contractors and 100 employees in April, citing pressures of the pandemic. Three months after shutdowns prevented Zoox from test-driving its cars, Amazon reportedly paid $1.2 billion for the company, far less than its 2018 valuation of $3.2 billion. The acquisition quickly expands Amazon’s capacity in driverless technology, a key area of growth for the company, and one that will serve its existing goals of minimizing delivery costs, time, and reliance on humans, rather than bringing the company into an entirely new industry in which it would have to compete for customers, according to the complaint.

Amazon has reportedly shown interest in other pandemic-distressed firms in adjacent or complementary markets as well, including AMC Theaters and J.C. Penney. And it took advantage of increased pandemic-related cash flow to expand its core business, leasing 12 new Boeing 767s. While many airlines are downsizing due to COVID-19, Amazon’s, “push for faster and cheaper at-home delivery is moving ahead on an ambitious timetable,” reads an academic study cited in the complaint. “Amazon Air’s robust expansion makes it one of the biggest stories in the air cargo industry in years.”

The complaint argues that the pandemic has exposed how Amazon will assert its power when its dominance is largely unrivaled—by either brick and mortar retail or by ecommerce providers with less well-developed fulfillment operations. With the COVID-19 crisis showing no signs of abating, the time to act is now, the unions argue.

“In the absence of immediate and decisive action to curb Amazon’s most abusive practices and its market power, a dominant Amazon—that edges out or undercuts competitors across a wide swath of industries, from consumer merchandise to movie content to delivery technology, and squeezes dry all the various players up and down its vertical supply chain—could be here to stay,” the complaint concludes.

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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

July 20, 2020

UFCW Statement on Black Lives Matter National Day of Action

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 for a Black Lives Matter national day of action to demand racial and economic justice in the workplace and the communities we serve.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“As America’s largest food and retail union, representing workers of color across the country on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, UFCW is proud to stand with its members and millions more in a national day of action to say with one united voice that Black Lives Matter.”

“Our country’s elected leaders and giant corporations have stood by for too long as racial injustice has plagued our communities and hurt so many hardworking families who are the backbone of our economy. UFCW members work at some of the biggest companies in the country and live in every Congressional district. Nationwide our members will be making their voices heard as we stand with SEIU and all labor unions to say the time for action is now.”

Background:

UFCW is joined in the Black Lives Matter national day of action by a wide range of labor and advocacy organizations. Participants in today’s action include the Service Employees International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, American Federation of Teachers, Jobs with Justice, Working Families Party, Greenpeace USA, Sunrise Movement, Indivisible, MoveOn, Sierra Club, MomsRising, and Demand Justice . Click here to view the full list.

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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

July 17, 2020

Senators Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren Call on Top 15 Grocery CEOs to Extend COVID-19 Hazard Pay for All Frontline Workers

On National Press Call, UFCW Announces New Numbers: 93 Grocery Worker Deaths, 12,405 Grocery Workers Infected or Exposed as COVID Cases Spike 

Senators & UFCW Demand Top Companies Provide Hazard Pay, Establish Mask Mandates to Protect All Shoppers and Workers  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million workers, held a national press conference with U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), calling on top grocery and retail companies to reinstate hazard pay for frontline workers as COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the country. On the press call, UFCW announced there have now been 93 grocery worker deaths and 12,405 grocery workers infected or exposed among the union’s members. Click here for the full video recording of the press conference. 

Senators Brown and Warren highlighted a new letter they led with Senate Democrats, calling on major grocery store CEOs to restore pandemic pay and implement CDC recommendations for workplace safety for the duration of the pandemic. In addition to Sens. Brown and Warren, the letter to the top 15 grocery chain CEOs was signed by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (C-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). A full list of companies receiving the letter is below. 

During the call, UFCW also released the results of a new national poll of 4,000 grocery workers, highlighting the challenges these workers face on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic: 

  • Nearly 1 in 2 workers are more concerned about COVID-19 now than 2 weeks ago
  • Customers not wearing masks and companies less concerned about employees
  • Over half of workers worry about bringing COVID-19 home and getting their family sick
  • Nearly 7 out of 10 workers say their employer is not enforcing mask mandates
  • More than 7 in 10 workers want COVID-19 hazard pay, given the risks they face
  • 75 percent of workers say an even worse second wave of COVID-19 cases is coming  

The following are statements from Senators Brown, Warren, and UFCW President Marc Perrone: 

“Grocery store workers and thousands of others are on the front lines of this pandemic. UFCW members are risking their lives so that Americans can keep food on their table. They’re keeping our society going – and their paychecks should reflect that,” said Senator Sherrod Brown (Ohio). “My fellow Democratic Senators and I wrote this letter to 15 major grocery store chains with a clear message: the pandemic is not over, and grocery store CEOs need to extend their pay increases and bonuses to frontline workers. If workers deserved hazard pay in April, they certainly deserve it now.” 

“Grocery workers’ lives are at increased risk every day as they do critical work to keep America functioning – and they deserve robust hazard pay to account for that risk. I’m in this fight with the UFCW and Senator Brown to demand grocery chains extend hazard pay for their essential workers,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts). “The next coronavirus relief package must include my Essential Workers Bill of Rights to guarantee this and a whole suite of benefits and protections like enforceable health and safety protections, universal paid sick leave and family leave, and child care.” 

“America’s grocery workers are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, bravely putting themselves in harm’s way every day as millions of Americans work from home. Since the beginning of the pandemic, UFCW has called for hazard pay, increased access to COVID testing and PPE, and the enforcement of mask mandates in stores to keep workers and shoppers safe,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “It is outrageous that top grocery chains across the country have cut hazard pay for these essential workers, even as they rake in billions in profits and the danger of COVID-19 continues to grow.

“As of today, nearly 100 grocery workers represented by UFCW have died and over 12,000 grocery workers have been infected or exposed. Leaders from the White House to countless retail boardrooms have simply failed to do their jobs to protect the American people and these companies still refuse to tell the truth about how many of their workers are getting sick or dying,” Perrone added. “These CEOs have a responsibility to fight this virus and provide a safe place to shop and work. The time has come to establish not just a national mask mandate, but to guarantee hazard pay for all American frontline workers.” 

Click below for copies of the Letters to the 15 Major Grocery Store Chain CEOs:

 

  1. Ahold Delhaize
  2. Albertsons
  3. Aldi
  4. Costco
  5. Dierbergs
  6. Kroger
  7. Mejier
  8. Publix
  9. Schnucks
  10. Smart & Final
  11. Sprouts
  12. Trader Joes
  13. Walmart
  14. Wegmans
  15. Whole Foods

   

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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

 

July 15, 2020

UFCW: Kroger Mask Mandate for Grocery Customers Long Overdue, Underscores Need for Action in All 50 States

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Calls for Mask Mandates Nationwide to Protect Workers and Shoppers as COVID-19 Cases Skyrocket

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union representing 1.3 million workers – including Kroger grocery workers across the country, called the new policy by Kroger to require that customers wear masks in stores long overdue. With COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in states like Arizona, Florida, and Texas, the union called the Kroger policy an important step which underscores the need for action to mandate masks in all 50 states.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“Kroger’s action to mandate masks for customers is long overdue and an important step that UFCW has been calling for since the beginning of the pandemic. To help save lives, every retailer and grocery store across this nation must adopt a mask requirement, and enforcement must be done by trained professionals, not retail workers already stretched thin during this crisis.

“While action by companies to require masks is essential, the brutal reality is that this is not nearly enough to turn the tide as COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket in states like Arizona, Florida, and Texas. Across the country, every governor and mayor must step up and make masks mandatory at all supermarkets and retail stores. Without universal mask mandates that are fully enforced nationwide, hundreds of thousands of Americans will continue to get sick and die. We cannot wait any longer.”

Background:

UFCW recently announced that in the first 100 days of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have already been 278 worker deaths and nearly 44,419 workers infected or exposed among its members in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, healthcare facilities, and other essential businesses.

In grocery stores across the country, there have been at least 93 worker deaths and 12,200 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.

A new USA Today report shows that 50 percent of governors still refuse to enact public mask mandates, including in states like Arizona, Florida, and Georgia which have seen COVID-19 cases continue to increase at alarming rates.

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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.

 

July 10, 2020

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union, 100 Health Experts Call For Mask Mandates in All 50 States to Combat COVID-19

In Full-Page New York Times Ad, UFCW and Top Health Experts Call for Mask Mandates Nationwide to Protect Workers and Shoppers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union representing 1.3 million workers, joined over 100 health experts in a new call to enact public mask mandates in all 50 states to combat the spread of COVID-19 as infections pass 3 million and both shoppers and frontline workers continue to be at risk. 

In a full-page advertisement in the New York Times set to run in this Sunday’s print edition, UFCW and a coalition of health experts call on elected officials for immediate action to make masks mandatory in public spaces in all 50 states. A new report shows the majority of governors have failed to enact public mask mandates. 

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement: 

“As COVID-19 spikes across the country continue to put America’s frontline workers at risk, it is time for governors, members of Congress, and the Trump Administration to step up and make public mask mandates the law in all 50 states.  

“In every grocery store in America, frontline workers are continuing to put themselves in harm’s way to make sure our families have the food we need. Without immediate action, these brave workers will continue to get sick and die. The science is clear – masks are the most powerful tool we have to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep both workers and shoppers safe.  

“With governors in the majority of states refusing to make masks mandatory, millions of Americans are needlessly being put in danger every day. It’s time for elected leaders to pull their heads out of the sand and make masks mandatory in all 50 states to protect these brave workers and the millions of families they serve.”  

In addition to UFCW, the open letter to elected leaders is signed by over 100 health experts from the World Economic Forum; MIT; Harvard; Stanford; Yale; the National Academy of Sciences, and many other leading organizations.

“Research suggests that over 200,000 American COVID-19 cases have already been averted thanks to the mask requirements covering much of the US, and it is estimated that requirements in the rest of the country could add over $1 trillion dollars to the US GDP,” said Jeremy Howard, a Distinguished Research Scientist at the University of San Francisco who was a co-organizing signatory to the letter.

Background: 

The New York Times ad can be viewed here, and the text is included below:

We have an urgent message about some critical new scientific research. It strongly suggests that requiring fabric mask use in public places could be amongst the most powerful tools to stop the community spread of COVID-19.

An international cross-disciplinary review of the scientific research by 19 experts and other recent research shows that:  

  • People are most infectious in the initial period of infection, when it is common to have few or no symptoms
  • Cloth masks obstruct a high portion of the droplets from the mouth and nose that spread the virus
  • Non-medical masks have been effective in reducing transmission of coronavirus
  • Cloth masks can be washed in soapy water and re-used
  • Places and time periods where mask usage is required or widespread have been shown to substantially lower community transmission
  • Public mask wearing is most effective at stopping spread of the virus when the vast majority of the public uses masks
  • Laws appear to be highly effective at increasing compliance and slowing or stopping the spread of COVID-19 

The preponderance of evidence, in both laboratory and clinical settings, indicates that mask wearing reduces the transmissibility per contact by reducing transmission of infected droplets. The decreased transmissibility could substantially reduce the death toll, other harms to public health, job losses and economic losses. The cost of such masks is very low by comparison.  

Modeling suggests that widespread public mask use, in conjunction with other measures, could bring the effective reproduction number (R) beneath 1.0, thus halting the growth of the pandemic.  

Therefore, we ask that government officials require cloth masks to be worn in all public places, such as stores, transportation systems, and public buildings as soon as possible. This action will prevent people who are infectious from unknowingly spreading the disease.  

We also ask business leaders who offer products and services to the public to require their employees and customers to wear masks whether or not it is required by local law. This vital step will help protect workers and customers. 

Such requirements will greatly increase the rate of mask wearing. This should be done in conjunction with, not as a replacement for, hand hygiene, physical distancing, testing, and contact tracing strategies.  

This requirement should be introduced alongside clear guidelines for the production, use and sanitization or re-use of face masks. We urge you to also consider their distribution as shortages allow.  

There is no need to wait for availability of medical-grade masks; any face covering, including a piece of cloth, a scarf, bandana, t-shirt, or paper towel, appears to be effective. 

 Go to www.masks4all.co to learn more.

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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.

 

July 9, 2020

As COVID-19 Threatens America’s Food Supply Chain, UFCW Calls on Congress to Prioritize Safety by Slowing Production Speeds in Meatpacking Plants

Union for 250,000 Workers in Meatpacking and Food Processing Calls for Slower Line Speeds, Safer Workplaces for Essential Workers Endangered by COVID-19 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents more than 250,000 workers in food processing and meatpacking plants, announced its support for the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act, introduced by U.S. Representatives Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), and Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02), which would impose safe line speed limits at meatpacking plants to ensure worker safety and social distancing. This comes at a critical moment for the U.S. food supply chain as COVID-19 continues to impact meatpacking plants and workers across the country.  

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:  

“America’s meatpacking workers have been on the frontlines of this pandemic since day one, putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure our families have the food we need. As COVID-19 continues to put our country’s meatpacking workers at risk, we must take action to reduce line speeds in these plants to ensure workers can maintain social distancing and stay safe on the job.  

“This bill is a critical step to reining in the dangerously fast line speeds at so many meatpacking plants and will put the safety of workers and our country’s food supply first. Congress must pass this vital legislation immediately.”  

Congressional Leaders for Worker Safety  

Keeping frontline workers safe at meatpacking plants, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a key priority for the members of Congress introducing this legislation.  

“The meat and poultry processing industry has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with infection hotspots appearing in plants across the country,” said U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge (OH-11).  “Fast line speeds make the dangerous conditions workers at these plants already face even worse by packing them closer together and placing them at greater risk of contracting or spreading the virus.  Waiving limits on processing speeds also threatens the safety of our food supply.  As COVID-19 cases continue to soar at processing plants, we must prioritize worker, food, and animal safety over increased production and profits.”  

“For years, USDA has been complicit in the consolidation of the meat processing industry by gifting linespeed waivers to corporate meatpackers at the expense of worker safety, the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers, and the safety of the nation’s meat supply,” said U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT-03). “The high-profile COVID-19 outbreaks at meat packing plants have raised questions of the safety of the conditions inside these plants. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, these workers experienced injuries at a higher rate than comparable occupations. And now, faster linespeeds make it impossible for workers to practice social distancing and to comply with safety guidelines. That is why I am proud to join the leadership shown by Rep. Fudge in introducing this legislation that will reign in these reckless linespeed waivers for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.” 

“It is imperative that we ensure worker safety on slaughter lines,” said U.S. Representative Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02). “Safety can not be exchanged for high production. During this unprecedented time of COVID-19, we should take the necessary precautions to ensure employees are sare while working at meat and  poultry establishments.” 

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. This includes 93 worker deaths in the meatpacking and food processing industries. 

UFCW announced its support today for the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act to ensure safe line speed limits in meatpacking plants.  

The USDA has repeatedly attempted to remove line speed limits in pork and poultry plants, increasing the risk to both workers and food safety.   

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the country’s food supply chain, the USDA has continued to grant waivers that allow plants to run faster and endanger more workers.  

In addition to calling on Congress for action today, UFCW is continuing to pursue litigation to maintain line speed limits in pork plants nationwide and prevent companies from further jeopardizing the health and safety of the nation’s food supply chain with dangerous increases to production speeds.

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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