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UFCW Calls for Congressional Hearing to Address Workplace Threats and Violence

June 1, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million essential workers in grocery stores, pharmacies, and other critical industries, called on Congressional leaders to pass the STOP Violence Act and hold an immediate Congressional hearing on the issue of workplace threats and violence impacting essential workers across America that spotlights workers’ voices.

In the letter sent to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, Marc Perrone, International President of the UFCW, urged bipartisan action to protect American workers from the continued threat of gun violence.

The need to address workplace violence has gained even more urgency in light of the recent tragic and senseless mass shootings at a Tops Friendly Markets grocery store in Buffalo, New York and at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo are just two of the 230 mass shootings that have occurred in 2022.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“Our union has repeatedly worked to protect our members against violence of all kinds in the workplace. Yet, in the face of our nation’s ongoing epidemic of gun violence, it is clear that the American people will continue to be subjected to acts of violence at work, at school, and everywhere throughout our communities if something does not change.

“It is long past time that our nation’s political leadership steps up to prevent more loss of life. As the House of Representatives seeks to move a package of gun safety legislation forward in the coming days, it’s crucial that our leaders hear directly from those who have been impacted by this violence, including from our workers who are facing these risks on the job daily. We must hear their stories, their grief, and their fears.

“Whether it is grocery workers like those in Buffalo or the teachers and staff in Texas, essential workers everywhere have spent these past two years keeping our nation moving forward. They continue to put themselves at risk every day, and the threat of workplace violence only worsens that risk. Now, more than ever, it’s imperative we take the necessary steps to keep our workers and this nation safe.”

UFCW Local One member, Rose Wysocki, a produce manager at the Tops location on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo, said:

“I am grateful that my union has been a leader in advocating for improving workplace safety, but we all know this is not enough. We need action from Congress. Essential workers should not have to worry or stress about workplace violence, we should be focused on serving our communities and customers. That is why I am asking that our Congressional leaders pass the STOP Violence Act, so my coworkers and I – and the hundreds of thousands of grocery workers across the country – can feel safe at work.”

Background:

UFCW has been a leading advocate for improving workplace safety in all forms, including actions that can help address gun violence in the workplace. This work includes advocacy for legislation that seeks to directly improve efforts to address workplace gun violence, improved workplace training that include active shooter training, and providing resources for UFCW members who have experienced workplace violence.

UFCW members have repeatedly experienced workplace gun violence. On May 14, 2022, UFCW members were victims of workplace gun violence at a Tops location in Buffalo, NY. Throughout 2021, numerous UFCW members experienced  workplace gun violence at a King Soopers location in Boulder, CO, a Stop & Shop location in West Hempstead, NY, and a Kroger location in Memphis, TN.

The STOP Violence Act would make grocery stores eligible for the same federal funding provided to other workplaces that regularly experience incidents of violence in the workplace. UFCW is calling for this legislation to be brought to the floor and passed as quickly as possible.

The full text of the letter can be found here:

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy:

Following the tragic and senseless shooting at a Tops Friendly Markets grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents 1.3 million workers in grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential industries across America, is calling for America’s Congressional leaders to take immediate action to protect these workers from the rising threats of workplace violence, as well as to better understand how to prevent such acts of senseless violence in the future.

It is no longer a question about whether grocery workers face risks on the job. The tragic reality is that they face multiple threats at the workplace every single day.

During the pandemic, these hard-working men and women literally put their lives on the line to make sure that families have the food and supplies needed. Sadly, these same frontline workers also face increasing exposure to workplace violence as mass shootings at grocery stores have become
more and more common in the United States. Grocery workers also regularly face harassment and threats from customers who refuse to follow COVID-19 safety protocols.

While our union has worked hard to protect our members against acts of hate and violence, including creating new workplace safety contract language; establishing workplace safety and health committees at stores; and holding safety and health trainings; it is clear we need leadership from our elected officials before more lives are lost. We are asking Congress to take the following actions:

  • Pass the STOP Violence Act: The STOP Violence Act would make grocery stores eligible for the same federal funding provided to other workplaces that are regularly exposed to mass violence in the workplace. We are calling for this important legislation to be brought to the floor for a vote and urge all elected leaders to vote “Yes.”
  • Congressional Hearing on Gun Violence in Grocery Stores: We also urge leadership to convene an emergency congressional hearing where the workers and customers who have faced workplace threats and this type of gun violence can testify about their experiences. In addition, CEOs of major food retailers should be included to testify about the actions they are taking – or are open to taking – to protect America’s union and non-union food workers. 

I realize that a discussion about any type of policy action relating to gun violence usually leads to partisan bickering and, therefore, not much getting done. This can no longer be the case. Grocery store workers have already sacrificed too much over these past two years to keep this country safe and America’s families fed. Now, more than ever, we must do everything we can to make these workplaces safe, which starts with taking actions that will help to prevent and deter acts of violence at America’s grocery stores.

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Marc Perrone

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The 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.