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National Press Conference on Urgent Need for Vaccine Access, Hazard Pay for Essential Workers as Deaths and Exposure for Frontline Workers Increase

February 9, 2021 Updated: March 5, 2021

Covid Vaccine National Press Call

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Announces Nearly 400 Worker Deaths and 80,000 Workers Infected or Exposed, Highlighting Urgent Need to Expedite Vaccine Access for Frontline Food Workers 

Over 35 States are Failing to Prioritize Grocery and Meatpacking Workers for Vaccine Access as COVID Risks Continue 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million frontline essential workers, hosted a national press call on the need to expedite vaccine access for frontline food workers, and the new wave of local hazard pay measures in at least 15 cities. Click here for video recording of today’s call.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone highlighted the urgent need for vaccine access for essential workers. The following are excerpts from today’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:

“COVID-19 is still a national emergency, and the threat of this pandemic for essential workers is worse now than ever before. Companies like Kroger, Walmart, and others still refuse to publicly disclose the full impact of COVID-19, including how many frontline workers have been infected and died, even as the speed of virus infections has increased in the last two months.

“Essential workers in grocery stores and meatpacking plants are not being prioritized for vaccine access in many states and continue to face delays that further endanger their health. Simply put, the failures in early vaccine distribution under the past administration have left millions of Americans and essential workers defenseless. Governors must immediately work with CEOs in these industries to ensure the vaccine is free for all essential workers and that workers have paid time off to receive each dose.

“As the danger from COVID continues, grocery workers are among the most at risk to daily exposure to the virus, yet most companies refuse to reinstate hazard pay. Thanks to UFCW grocery workers speaking out, a growing list of cities like Los Angeles and Seattle are stepping up to mandate grocery hazard pay. But some companies like Kroger not only refuse to provide the hazard pay, they have retaliated with store closures and job cuts to threaten local mayors who have recently advanced grocery hazard pay measures.

“As America’s largest food and retail union, UFCW will do everything it can to ensure that food workers—both union and non-union—receive the hazard pay they’ve earned and the vaccine access they urgently need as they continue to report to work each day during this deadly pandemic.”

BACKGROUND:

COVID NUMBERS: UFCW announced today the COVID threat to frontline food workers is worsening every day. Among the union’s members across the country, there have now been:

  • Nearly 400 frontline worker deaths and 77,600 frontline workers infected or exposed 
  • 137 grocery worker deaths and over 30,100 grocery workers infected or exposed 
  • 132 meatpacking worker deaths and 21,900 meatpacking workers infected or exposed

VACCINE ACCESS: UFCW confirmed today that essential workers in grocery stores and meatpacking plants lack vaccine access in over 35 states:

GROCERY HAZARD PAY: UFCW has led the push to restore grocery hazard pay for these essential workers. Last week, UFCW local unions helped secure new grocery hazard pay mandates in SeattleLos AngelesLong Beach, and many other cities on the West Coast. This has prompted action from national grocery chains. Trader Joe’s expanded hazard pay for its 10,000 grocery workers, but Kroger retaliated by closing multiple grocery stores, a move condemned by UFCW. In recent months, UFCW’s national hazard pay campaign has helped secure additional hazard pay deals for 120,000 grocery workers in California, New York, and across New England.

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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