In its latest call for grocery retailers to reinstate hazard pay for frontline workers in their stores and facilities during the coronavirus pandemic, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) brought in added support from Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
A contingent of Democratic senators led by Warren and Brown released on Thursday a letter sent to the CEOs of the top 15 grocery chains in the United States, in which they urged the companies to “continue with increased pay for frontline workers during the duration of this national emergency and continue to take all steps needed to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for both employees and customers.”
According to UFCW President and CEO Marc Perrone (left), in a press conference on Friday afternoon with Warren and Brown, since the beginning of June, “the nation’s leading retailers began ending their hazard or hero pay programs, which had been implemented at the beginning of the crisis.” Since then, however, coronavirus infections have increased across the United States, with significant spikes in the southern and western regions of the country.
Perrone noted that there have now been 93 grocery worker deaths and 12,405 grocery workers infected or exposed to COVID-19 among the union’s members. UFCW represents 1.3 million employees in grocery, meatpacking, food processing, retail, health care and other industries in the U.S. and Canada.
Perrone also released today the results of a new UFCW national poll of 4,000 grocery workers, highlighting the challenges these workers face on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the findings:
• Nearly 1 in 2 workers are more concerned about COVID-19 now than 2 weeks ago.
• Customers not wearing masks and companies less concerned about employees.
• Over half of workers worry about bringing COVID-19 home, getting family sick.
• Nearly 7 out of 10 workers say their employer is not enforcing mask mandates.
• More than 7 in 10 workers want COVID-19 hazard pay given the risks they face.
• 75% of workers say an even worse second wave of COVID-19 cases is coming.
During today’s press conference, Sen. Brown reiterated that the pandemic is ongoing, and so is the risk to grocery workers.
“Grocery store workers and thousands of others are on the front lines of this pandemic. UFCW members are risking their lives so that Americans can keep food on their table. They’re keeping our society going — and their paychecks should reflect that,” he said. “My fellow Democratic Senators and I wrote this letter to 15 major grocery store chains with a clear message: the pandemic is not over, and grocery store CEOs need to extend their pay increases and bonuses to frontline workers. If workers deserved hazard pay in April, they certainly deserve it now.”
Sen. Warren (left) added, “Grocery workers’ lives are at increased risk every day as they do critical work to keep America functioning — and they deserve robust hazard pay to account for that risk. The next coronavirus relief package must include my Essential Workers Bill of Rights to guarantee this and a whole suite of benefits and protections like enforceable health and safety protections, universal paid sick leave and family leave, and child care.”
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