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UFCW: OSHA COVID Workplace Safety Standard Fails to Protect Frontline Grocery and Meatpacking Workers Still At Risk From Pandemic

June 10, 2021 Updated: June 14, 2021

America’s Largest Food and Retail Union Condemns OSHA Failure to Address Urgent Need for Workplace Safety Standard that Recognizes Daily Health Threats Still Faced by Essential Workers Keeping Food Supply Secure and Pharmacies Open  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million essential workers in food and retail workers, condemned the move by the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) to exclude frontline grocery and meatpacking workers from its long-delayed Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on COVID workplace safety. 

UFCW has been a leading national voice in the push for these new pandemic worker safety rules and today called on OSHA to immediately revise them to include the millions of American frontline food workers who put their health at risk every day during the pandemic and continue to face virus risks as this health crisis continues.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“Today’s new COVID workplace safety standard from OSHA represents a broken promise to the millions of American workers in grocery stores and meatpacking plants who have gotten sick and died on the frontlines of this pandemic. Vaccinations are helping us take control of this pandemic, but the danger for these essential workers is far from over. Thousands of frontline food workers are still at risk of infection

“While the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard provides a number of important safety rules for health care, nursing home, and home health care workers represented by UFCW, it fails to protect many other frontline workers our union represents. The current COVID safety guidelines in place are unenforceable and leave millions of essential grocery, retail, meatpacking, and food processing workers to fend for themselves as they face hundreds of potentially unvaccinated people every day. 

“OSHA had a responsibility to issue a strong Emergency Temporary Standard that creates clear workplace safety rules for all employers to follow as the pandemic continues. What was released by the Administration completely ignores the health threat grocery and meatpacking workers are still confronting as they bravely serve our communities and keep our food supply secure. 

“The reality is that voluntary guidelines are not enough on COVID safety. OSHA has a responsibility to protect all of America’s frontline workers and to fully enforce CDC guidelines as well as requirements in a new ETS on COVID for all employers as promised and urgently needed. This is a slap in the face to the millions of American frontline workers and their families who have been infected and killed by this deadly virus. 

“As America’s largest union for grocery and meatpacking workers on the frontlines, UFCW will be pushing OSHA to immediately increase workplace safety inspections in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and healthcare facilities to make sure workers are kept safe and all employers are held accountable for protecting them on the job. Now more than ever we need to stand with America’s essential workers.”

BACKGROUND

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 in Spring 2020. UFCW also called on governors to enforce CDC workplace safety guidelines as COVID outbreaks ripped through meatpacking plants and grocery stores across the country. 

COVID NUMBERS: UFCW recently confirmed that COVID-19 continues to threaten essential food workers nationwide. Between March 1 and May 13, UFCW reported 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 Foods, Costco, Trader 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: 

  • 463 frontline worker deaths and at least 93,700 frontline workers infected or exposed 
  • 185 grocery worker deaths and at least 42,000 grocery workers infected or exposed 
  • 132 meatpacking worker deaths and 22,300 meatpacking workers infected or exposed
  • 60 food processing worker deaths and 11,700 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