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Frontline workers in Oxnard, Calif., who worked at least three months in a grocery store or pharmacy during the first 12 months of the coronavirus pandemic will receive a $1,000 bonus.

California city becomes first in nation to use American Rescue Plan funds for grocery worker COVID pay

UFCW applauds Oxnard City Council, calls on local leaders nationwide to support similar measures for frontline workers

The Oxnard, Calif., City Council will allocate $2.5 million of its American Rescue Plan funds for essential-worker COVID premium pay for retail grocery and pharmacy workers, becoming the first city in the nation to use the government funds to support those workers who have served their community on the frontlines of the pandemic since it started. 

Frontline workers who worked at least three months in a grocery store or pharmacy during the first 12 months of the coronavirus pandemic will receive a $1,000 bonus, according to the Oxnard City Council.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), America’s largest union of essential food and retail workers, applauded the move, with UFCW president Marc Perrone saying, “Essential workers in grocery stores and pharmacies have bravely put their health at risk daily throughout the pandemic to ensure our families have the food, essential supplies and vaccine access we need. Oxnard is making history as the first city in the nation to use American Rescue Plan funds to provide these essential workers with the COVID premium pay they have earned and deserve. The UFCW is urging all governors and local leaders in all 50 states to follow Oxnard’s lead by ensuring this state pandemic aid is used to provide COVID premium pay and recognize the extraordinary sacrifices made by those on the frontlines.”

The Oxnard City Council’s new COVID premium pay grant announced will:

• Allocate $2.5 million of the city’s $59 million from its American Rescue Plan funds on essential worker COVID premium pay for retail grocery and drugstore workers.

• Provide $2.5 million of COVID premium pay for retail grocery and drugstore workers. Both full- time and part-time workers qualify. 

• Provide a one-time payout to workers who qualify. Current estimates indicate that roughly 2,000 essential workers in Oxnard would be eligible for the COVID premium pay, including about 450 Oxnard essential workers represented by UFCW Local 770.

• The Oxnard City Council measure would give anyone who worked at least three months in a grocery store or pharmacy during the first 12 months of the coronavirus pandemic a $1,000 bonus.

UFCW Local 770 is the largest union for essential retail workers in Southern California and its members played a leading role in advocating for this action by the Oxnard City Council to provide the COVID premium pay these workers have earned and deserve. UFCW Local 770 held meetings with the Oxnard City Council, participated in public comment sessions and wrote a letter in partnership with the Central Coast Labor Council calling for this action.

“Essential food and drug retail employees are the lifeline that sustained our communities and kept us afloat during the Covid pandemic,” said UFCW Local 770 President John Grant. “Frontline workers continue to make sure our communities have the food, essential supplies, medications and life-saving vaccines needed. UFCW 770 members worked tirelessly with the Oxnard City Council to achieve this Gratitude Pay for union and non-union workers alike. We commend the City of Oxnard for doing the right thing and urge other cities to follow suit by allocating their funds from the American Rescue Plan to essential worker COVID premium pay.”

UFCW has been a leading national voice for frontline workers and supported recent Biden Administration guidance calling for essential worker COVID premium pay to be prioritized as governors distribute $350 billion in state COVID relief aid from the American Rescue Plan. 

In the past year, UFCW helped pass a wave of city COVID premium pay mandates enacted in Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, among more than 24 cities and counties. Earlier in the pandemic, UFCW helped secure COVID premium pay agreements for essential workers at Stater Bros. in California, Stop & Shop in New England, New York, and New Jersey; ShopRite across the Northeast, as well as national premium pay deals at top grocery chains Kroger and Albertsons.

“Helping families in our community get the food they need this past year has been so important and I’m proud to have played my part,” said Becky Ayalya, a Vons grocery worker in Oxnard. “But the reality is that we are still on the frontlines as this pandemic continues, and we still go to work every day in fear that we will get COVID or bring the virus home to our family. To the Oxnard City Council, I just want to say, ‘thank you.’ This COVID premium pay means so much.” 

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