The UFCW held a national press conference with U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) on July 17, calling on top grocery and retail companies to reinstate hazard pay for frontline workers as COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the country.
During the press conference call, Senators Brown and Warren talked about a new letter they led with Senate Democrats, which called on major grocery store CEOs to restore pandemic pay and implement CDC recommendations for workplace safety for the duration of the pandemic. In addition to Senators Brown and Warren, the letter to the top 15 grocery chain CEOs was signed by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). A full list of companies receiving the letter is listed below.
“America’s grocery workers are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, bravely putting themselves in harm’s way every day as millions of Americans work from home,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, the UFCW has called for hazard pay, increased access to COVID testing and PPE, and the enforcement of mask mandates in stores to keep workers and shoppers safe. It is outrageous that top grocery chains across the country have cut hazard pay for these essential workers, even as they rake in billions in profits and the danger of COVID-19 continues to grow.”
“As of today, nearly 100 grocery workers represented by UFCW have died and over 12,000 grocery workers have been infected or exposed,” Perrone added. “Leaders from the White House to countless retail boardrooms have simply failed to do their jobs to protect the American people and these companies still refuse to tell the truth about how many of their workers are getting sick or dying. These CEOs have a responsibility to fight this virus and provide a safe place to shop and work. The time has come to establish not just a national mask mandate, but to guarantee hazard pay for all American frontline workers.”
During the call, the UFCW announced that 93 members who work at grocery stores have died from COVID-19 and 12,405 members at grocery stores have been infected or exposed to the virus. The UFCW also released the results of a new national poll of 4,000 grocery workers, highlighting the challenges these workers face on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic as follows:
- Nearly one in two workers are more concerned about COVID-19 now than two weeks ago.
- Customers are not wearing masks and companies are less concerned about employees.
- Over half of workers worry about bringing COVID-19 home and getting their family sick.
- Nearly seven out of 10 workers say their employer is not enforcing mask mandates.
- More than seven in 10 workers want COVID-19 hazard pay, given the risks they face.
- 75 percent of workers say an even worse second wave of COVID-19 cases is coming.
“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,” said Senator Brown. “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.”
“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. I’m in this fight with the UFCW and Senator Brown to demand grocery chains extend hazard pay for their essential workers,” said Senator Warren. “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.”
You can view copies of the letters to the 15 Major grocery store chain CEOs below:
- Ahold Delhaize
- Smart & Final
- Trader Joe’s
- Whole Foods
You can watch the video recording of the press conference here.