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UFCW Applauds First City Leaders in the Nation to Use American Rescue Plan Funds for Essential Worker Pay

June 8, 2021

Grocery workers

New COVID Premium Pay to Support Oxnard Essential Workers, Set Powerful Precedent As Union for Grocery and Pharmacy Workers Calls on Governors and Local Leaders in All 50 States to Enact Similar Measures for Frontline Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), America’s largest union of essential food and retail workers, applauded California leaders on the Oxnard City Council for becoming the first city in the nation to utilize American Rescue Plan funds to provide COVID premium pay to essential workers, such as grocery and pharmacy workers, still on the frontlines of this pandemic. 

The Oxnard City Council plans to allocate $2.5 million of its American Rescue Plan funds for essential worker COVID premium pay for retail grocery and pharmacy workers who have served their community on the frontlines of this deadly pandemic since it started.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone: “Essential workers in grocery stores and pharmacies have bravely put their health at risk daily throughout the pandemic to ensure our families have the food, essential supplies, and vaccine access we need. Oxnard is making history as the first city in the nation to use American Rescue Plan funds to provide these essential workers with the COVID premium pay they have earned and deserve. The UFCW is urging all governors and local leaders in all 50 states to follow Oxnard’s lead by ensuring this state pandemic aid is used to provide COVID premium pay and recognize the extraordinary sacrifices made by those on the frontlines.”

UFCW Local 770 is the largest union for essential retail workers in Southern California and its members played a leading role in advocating for this action by the Oxnard City Council to provide the COVID premium pay these workers have earned and deserve. UFCW Local 770 held meetings with the Oxnard City Council, participated in public comment sessions, and wrote a letter in partnership with the Central Coast Labor Council calling for this action.

UFCW Local 770 President John Grant: “Essential food and drug retail employees are the lifeline that sustained our communities and kept us afloat during the Covid pandemic. Frontline workers continue to make sure our communities have the food, essential supplies, medications, and life saving vaccines needed. UFCW 770 members worked tirelessly with the Oxnard City Council to achieve this Gratitude Pay for union and non-union workers alike. We commend the City of Oxnard for doing the right thing and urge other cities to follow suit by allocating their funds from the American Rescue Plan to essential worker COVID premium pay.”

BACKGROUND

UFCW has been a leading national voice for frontline workers and applauded recent Biden Administration guidance calling for essential worker COVID premium pay to be prioritized as governors distribute $350 billion in state COVID relief aid from the American Rescue Plan. 

In the past year, UFCW helped pass a wave of city COVID premium pay mandates enacted in Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, among more than 24 cities and counties. Earlier in the pandemic, UFCW secured COVID premium pay agreements for essential workers at Stater Bros. in California, Stop & Shop in New England, New York, and New Jersey; ShopRite across the Northeast, as well as national premium pay deals at top grocery chains Kroger and Albertsons.

The Oxnard City Council’s new COVID premium pay grant announced will:

  • Allocate $2.5 million of the city’s $59 million from its American Rescue Plan funds on essential worker COVID premium pay for retail grocery and drug store workers.
  • Provide $2.5 million of COVID premium pay for retail grocery and drug store workers. Both full- time and part-time workers qualify
  • Provide a one-time payout to workers who qualify. Current estimates indicate that roughly 2,000 essential workers in Oxnard would be eligible for the COVID premium pay, including about 450 Oxnard essential workers represented by UFCW Local 770.
  • The Oxnard City Council measure would give anyone who worked at least three months in a grocery store or pharmacy during the first 12 months of the coronavirus pandemic a $1,000 bonus.

CVS worker Debbie Reeves: “As a CVS worker for over 40 years, I’ve been proud to serve Oxnard families every day, but nothing prepared me for working on the frontlines of this pandemic. I asked Oxnard City Council leaders to recognize the incredible health risks essential workers like me have faced. This COVID premium pay isn’t just about helping Oxnard essential workers provide for their family, it also sends a clear message that our community values us and the work we do every day to keep our customers safe.”

Vons grocery worker Becky Ayalya: “Helping families in our community get the food they need this past year has been so important and I’m proud to have played my part. But the reality is that we are still on the frontlines as this pandemic continues, and we still go to work every day in fear that we will get COVID or bring the virus home to our family. To the Oxnard City Council, I just want to say ‘thank you.’ This COVID premium pay means so much.” 

Vons grocery worker Lucy Gilbertson:“ I think this is awesome what the City Council of Oxnard is doing for the grocery workers, the frontline workers, and everybody who has been risking their lives every day to go to work. This shows us gratitude at a time when it feels like we’ve been forgotten. Grocery workers have been through so much this past year and I hope more cities provide this pay to these workers still facing risks as the pandemic continues”

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UFCW 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