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UFCW: Trader Joe’s Firing COVID Safety Whistleblower Highlights Failure of Top Grocery Chains to Protect Essential Workers Across the Country Still at Risk on Frontlines

March 1, 2021

Shoppers wearing mask outside Trader Joe's

America’s Largest Union for Grocery Workers Calls on CEOs in Industry for Immediate Action to Strengthen COVID Safety Measures Amid New Wave of COVID Grocery Outbreaks Across the Country

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million essential frontline workers in food and retail, condemned Trader Joe’s for firing an essential grocery worker who spoke out about COVID safety hazards putting both employees and customers at risk. This comes amid a new wave of grocery COVID outbreaks in the past two months that have infected over 1,000 grocery workers in CaliforniaTexasMichiganWashington, and states across the country.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“Trader Joe’s firing an essential grocery worker who bravely spoke out about COVID dangers in stores is a blatant example of corporate intimidation meant to silence workers across the country. The CEOs of every grocery chain have a responsibility to put public safety first and must be held accountable for efforts to cover up COVID safety failures. 

“Our country’s leaders must recognize that this pandemic is far from over. Top grocery chains like Kroger, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods must take immediate action to address the COVID hazards that are putting both customers and workers at risk as virus infections continue to spread in grocery stores. Every supermarket in the country must increase worker protections, enforce mask wearing in stores, and commit to disclosing when frontline workers have been infected and died. 

“The danger from COVID is still here and failure by grocery chains to enforce these critical safety measures will result in even more customers and workers infected. The time for action is now.”

BACKGROUND:

As the largest union for grocery workers, UFCW has highlighted the growing threat in stores as the pandemic continues. Grocery COVID outbreaks have spiked in the past two months with over 130 different grocery COVID outbreaks in Southern California, nearly 200 Costco worker infections at a single store in Washington State, close to 500 grocery worker infections at Kroger stores in Houston just since Christmas, and 23 grocery worker infections at a Whole Foods in Detroit just last week.

VACCINE ACCESS: UFCW recently confirmed that essential workers in grocery stores and meatpacking plants lack vaccine access in over 35 states]UFCW recently reported that essential workers in grocery stores and meatpacking plants lack vaccine access in over 35 states.

COVID NUMBERS: UFCW announced the COVID threat to frontline food workers is worsening every day. Among the union’s members across the country, there have now been:

  • Nearly 400 frontline worker deaths and 77,600 frontline workers infected or exposed 
  • 138 grocery worker deaths and over 31,200 grocery 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