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UFCW: OSHA Worker Safety Guidance Fails to Protect Frontline Workers Facing COVID Delta Surge

August 17, 2021

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483 COVID Deaths of Frontline Workers Confirmed by Top Union for Retail and Meatpacking Industry as COVID Cases Explode Nationwide

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the union for 1.3 million essential workers in grocery, retail, pharmacy, healthcare, meatpacking, and other frontline industries, welcomed the updated workplace safety guidance from Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) that recommends businesses have workers wear masks at retail stores and meatpacking facilities in parts of the country with “substantial or high community transmission” of COVID-19. The new OSHA guidance also recommends that businesses ask customers to wear masks and consider requiring them, and also consider staggering worker breaks and clock-in times for safe social distancing

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. While calling the August 13 update a positive step, UFCW cautioned it is still not enough to protect millions of American essential workers facing the new COVID-19 Delta surge.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“This updated COVID workplace safety guidance from OSHA represents a step in the right direction, but still fails to fully protect the millions of American workers in grocery stores and meatpacking plants who continue to get sick and die on the frontlines of this pandemic.  

“With COVID Delta cases skyrocketing across the country, essential workers are more at risk than ever before and urgently need action to strengthen workplace safety standards and ensure these standards are fully enforced in all 50 states. Our country’s leaders must recognize that this deadly COVID wave demands bold action and half measures will only result in more worker infections and deaths.  

“The harsh reality is that current COVID safety guidelines are simply not enough and have left millions of essential workers to fend for themselves. What we need now is a clear enforceable COVID workplace safety standard that will protect America’s essential workers still on the frontlines of this deadly pandemic. 

“As America’s largest union for grocery and meatpacking workers on the frontlines, UFCW is calling on OSHA to finally issue a strong Emergency Temporary Standard that creates clear workplace safety rules for all employers to follow as this dangerous COVID surge continues to spiral. Now more than ever we need to stand with America’s essential workers.”


UFCW has been the leading national voice for essential workers in meatpacking, grocery, retail, and many other frontline industries during the COVID-19 pandemic. UFCW welcomed new CDC guidance recommending indoor masking for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in high-transmission states, but the union said a national mask mandate is needed to stop the new COVID Delta surge and finally take control of the pandemic.

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

  • 483 frontline worker deaths and at least 93, 900 frontline workers infected or exposed
  • 198 grocery worker deaths and at least 43,900 grocery workers infected or exposed
  • 132 meatpacking worker deaths and 22,400 meatpacking workers infected or exposed
  • 67 food processing worker deaths and 13,100 food processing 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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