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UFCW: Grocery and Retail CEOs Ending COVID Mask Rules for Vaccinated Must Address Risks Shoppers and Workers Face

May 19, 2021 Updated: May 26, 2021

Woman throwing used protective surgical mask into the garbage bin

Union for 1.3 Million Retail and Food Workers Warns About Health Risks as Retailers Change Mask Policies Despite 200 Million Americans Not Fully Vaccinated 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million essential food and retail workers, cautioned against the growing trend of top retailers ending mask requirements for vaccinated shoppers and employees in the wake of new CDC guidance. UFCW represents workers at KrogerCVSAlbertsonsMacy’s, and other major retailers across the country.As the union for frontline grocery and retail workers, UFCW is calling on the CEOs of retailers across the industry to take action to reassure the public that the majority of those in stores will still wear masks to keep shoppers and workers safe given ongoing COVID risks and the fact there are still over 200 million Americans not fully vaccinated as the pandemic continues.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s grocery workers are still facing daily COVID risks on the frontlines so that all our families can put food on the table as the pandemic continues. These essential frontline workers have been forced to play mask police throughout the pandemic with many shoppers not following COVID safety standards. Now, they are being asked to be the vaccination police. 

“As the union for essential food and retail workers on the frontlines across the country, UFCW is strongly urging retailers not to add to the confusion and to assure customers that the vast majority of people in their stores will still be masked. Keeping retail mask rules in place for most people will help us protect each other and our families. Before the new CDC mask guidance, we knew that unmasked shoppers were ignoring COVID safety measures and likely unvaccinated, so we knew to keep our distance if we were concerned. Now it is virtually impossible to tell who is and is not vaccinated.

“With more than 200 million Americans still not fully vaccinated, now is not the time to let our guard down. Given the uncertainty we face after the new mask guidance, it’s more urgent than ever for the Department of Labor to issue an OSHA emergency temporary standard that provides clear-cut COVID workplace safety rules that are easy for businesses to follow to keep workers and shoppers safe.”


UFCW has been a leading national voice for frontline workers, and was one of the first groups to call for mask mandates and other vital COVID safety measures to be enacted by elected leaders 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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