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UFCW: Biden Vaccine and Workplace Safety Rule Key First Step, Workers Must Have Voice to Ensure Fair Implementation as COVID Risks Continue

November 4, 2021

Marshalltown JBS Vaccination Clinic

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union with 1.3 Million Workers Urges CEOs to Follow UFCW-Tyson Model of Negotiating Vaccine Policies with Workers, Guarantee Paid Leave and PPE Like Masks at No Cost to Workers 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the union for 1.3 million essential workers in groceryretailpharmacyhealthcaremeatpacking, and other frontline industries, responded to the new Biden Administration vaccine mandate and Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on workplace safety from Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) by calling the policy an important first step, but emphasized the need for workers to have a voice in how these policies are implemented to protect their rights and keep them safe on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UFCW recently negotiated a vaccine mandate at Tyson Foods that resulted in a 96 percent vaccination rate among frontline employees and secured the first national paid leave for meatpacking workers at the company, a historic breakthrough in the industry. UFCW is urging all CEOs to follow this model as they move to enact the policies announced today.

UFCW has been a leading national voice for frontline workers, and was one of the first groups to call for an OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard in testimony to Congress at House and Senate hearings, calling this paramount to protecting essential workers in grocery stores and meatpacking plants as COVID-19 health risks have continued.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s frontline food and retail workers have faced extreme health risks throughout the pandemic. Today’s action from the Biden Administration, while not going far enough, is a critical first step to keep workers safe on the job as COVID-19 dangers continue. As the largest union for frontline essential workers in grocery stores and meatpacking plants, UFCW has long said that voluntary workplace safety guidance was not enough and that a clear and enforceable standard was vital to hold companies accountable for the safety of their workers.

“UFCW is calling on all businesses to negotiate this vaccine requirement with their frontline workers. Ensuring that workers have a voice in COVID workplace safety policies is critical to guaranteeing these measures are implemented fairly and build the trust and strong consensus needed for these safeguards to be effective.

“The brutal truth is that this pandemic is far from over. With more than 70,000 new COVID cases every day, companies must do more to keep workers safe. CEOs should be doing everything they can, including paying for PPE, vaccines, testing, and paid leave to put the health and safety of essential workers first. Workers should not have to use money out of their own pockets to pay for critical PPE like masks. The White House and CEOs must work together to find a better way to cover the cost of masks and other critical PPE, instead of shifting the burden onto essential workers already stretched to the breaking point.

“As President Biden’s new vaccine policy moves forward, UFCW will engage the administration and our employers to ensure that essential workers have a strong voice in how this policy is implemented and that paid sick leave is provided so that all workers who get sick can recover.”

“UFCW worked together with Tyson Foods to set a new standard with a vaccine mandate that helped get 96 percent of employees vaccinated and proved what’s possible when we listen to workers and negotiate the implementation of vaccination mandates fairly and responsibly. All companies must follow this model and ensure that their frontline workers have a voice in how this national vaccine mandate is implemented and have access to the critical PPE and support they need as the pandemic continues.”

BACKGROUND

UFCW has been the leading national voice for essential workers in meatpacking, grocery, retail, and many other frontline industries during the COVID-19 pandemic. In June 2021, UFCW raised serious concerns about the initial OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard which excluded millions of essential workers in retail and meatpacking facilities and said that today’s ETS is long overdue in the effort to strengthen safeguards as COVID health risks continue for these workers.

COVID NUMBERS: In the latest data compiled, UFCW confirmed that among the union’s members nationwide, there have already been at least: 

  • 497 frontline worker deaths and at least 104,836 frontline workers infected or exposed 
  • 205 grocery worker deaths and at least 43,900 grocery workers infected or exposed 
  • 135 meatpacking worker deaths and 22,400 meatpacking workers infected or exposed 
  • 69 food processing worker deaths and 13,100 food processing workers infected or exposed 

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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