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UFCW: CDC Mask Policy for Vaccinated Must Recognize Challenges Essential Retail and Grocery Workers Still Face

May 13, 2021

America’s Largest Union for Frontline Retail and Grocery Workers Highlights Need for CDC to Address COVID Safety Enforcement for Unvaccinated 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million essential food and retail workers, raised concerns about the new CDC guidance that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks indoors. As the nation’s leading voice for retail and grocery worker safety, UFCW was one of the first to call for mask mandates to combat COVID-19 and has continued to highlight the ongoing health threat faced by the many essential workers still on the frontlines.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“While we all share the desire to return to a mask-free normal, today’s CDC guidance is confusing and fails to consider how it will impact essential workers who face frequent exposure to individuals who are not vaccinated and refuse to wear masks. 

“Millions of Americans are doing the right thing and getting vaccinated, but essential workers are still forced to play mask police for shoppers who are unvaccinated and refuse to follow local COVID safety measures. Are they now supposed to become the vaccination police? 

“With so many states already ending their mask mandates, this new CDC guidance must do more to acknowledge the real and daily challenge these workers and the American people still face. 

“Vaccinations are helping us take control of this pandemic, but we must not let our guard down. As one of America’s largest unions for essential workers, UFCW is calling on the CDC and our nation’s leaders to clarify how this new policy will be implemented, how essential workers will be protected, and how these workers will protect the communities they serve.”


UFCW has been a leading national voice for frontline workers and was one of the first groups to call on elected and business leaders to enact strong COVID safety measures like mask mandates when the pandemic first began.

COVID NUMBERS: UFCW recently confirmed that COVID-19 continues to threaten essential food workers nationwide. 

Since March 1, UFCW reports a nearly 35 percent increase in grocery worker deaths and a nearly 30 percent increase in grocery workers infected or exposed following supermarket outbreaks at Whole FoodsCostcoTrader Joe’s and other chains across the country. According to new UFCW estimates, among the union’s members nationwide, there have already been at least:

  • 462 frontline worker deaths and at least 93,300 frontline workers infected or exposed
  • 184 grocery worker deaths and at least 41,700 grocery workers infected or exposed 
  • 132 meatpacking worker deaths and 22,290 meatpacking workers infected or exposed 


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

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