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UFCW: Make Grocers Essential

3 months ago
Charlie Sprang
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Union calling on Governors to make them frontline workers

Brian Young on Mar 25, 2020
ucommblog.com

Grocery stores across the nation have become lifebloods for communities that are forced to quarantine. For many, it is people’s only chance to get out of the house and talk to people in person. While people are flocking to the stores and stockpiling groceries, store employees are being put at risk.

Unlike doctors, many of these grocery store employees are making at or slightly above minimum wage and do not have great paid sick leave policies. Yet they are being asked to work often without any protective equipment. At many stores in places hardest hit by the virus, they are encountering many more people than ever before, including some who are sick. According to United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) President Marc Perrone, one store in the NY/NJ area saw 10,000 people come through the store in one day. Usually, the store sees between 800 and 1,200 people.

While states like New York have declared these workers essential, meaning that they can stay open under the Governor’s work from home law, they are not being treated like other essential workers. In an interview with MSNBC, Perrone advocated for making these workers “frontline” workers like first responders, and healthcare professionals. This would allow grocery store, pharmacy, and food production workers the ability to qualify for the benefits that other frontline workers get, including testing and rapid results for anyone who thinks they may have been exposed.

With thousands of customers coming into contact with these employees, it is inevitable that some will get sick. That’s why it is more important than ever to get quick results for these workers so that they don’t stay on the job infecting others. Perrone also wants this status so that protective equipment can go to these workers. When asked if companies are giving their retail employees masks, Perrone said:

“We’re finding out is that virtually none of them do. Even if they have their own mask at home, like if they’ve done some drywall work or asbestos work around their house or insulation work, they don’t have those masks. And because the CDC initially said that you should only wear them if you’re sick, I think it gave the impression to the public that if you wore a mask, you were sick. And some of the employers were concerned about their employees having masks on, that the public might think that they were sick, when they really weren’t. So, it has been a challenge.”

He did note that some grocery stores like Albertsons and Safeway have installed sneeze guards to protect their employees, but they believe that this is only a temporary solution.

“We need to keep this food chain and food supply open,” said Perrone. “Because we will, in fact, have panic if we can’t keep that open.”

The UFCW is asking everyone to send an email to your Governor asking them to make grocery store workers frontline employees.

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