On June 10, the UFCW condemned the move by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to exclude frontline grocery and meatpacking workers from its long-delayed Emergency Temporary Standard on COVID workplace safety. As a leading national voice in the push for these new pandemic worker safety rules, our union called on OSHA to reverse course and include the millions of American frontline food workers who put their health at risk every day during the pandemic and continue to face virus risks as this health crisis continues.
The UFCW was one of the first groups to call for an OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard in testimony to Congress at House and Senate hearings last year. Our union also called on governors to enforce CDC workplace safety guidelines as COVID outbreaks ripped through meatpacking plants and grocery stores across the country.
“Today’s new COVID workplace safety standard from OSHA represents a broken promise to the millions of American workers in grocery stores and meatpacking plants who have gotten sick and died on the frontlines of this pandemic,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone in a statement. “Vaccinations are helping us take control of this pandemic, but the danger for these essential workers is far from over. Thousands of frontline food workers are still at risk of infection.”
“While the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard provides a number of important safety rules for health care, nursing home, and home health care workers represented by the UFCW, it fails to protect many other frontline workers our union represents,” Perrone said. “The current COVID safety guidelines in place are unenforceable and leave millions of essential food, meatpacking and processing, retail, and pharmacy workers to fend for themselves as they face hundreds of potentially unvaccinated people every day. OSHA had a responsibility to issue a strong Emergency Temporary Standard that creates clear workplace safety rules for all employers to follow as the pandemic continues. What was released by the administration completely ignores the health threat grocery and meatpacking workers are still confronting as they bravely serve our communities and keep our food supply secure.”
“The reality is that voluntary guidelines are not enough on COVID safety,” Perrone added. “OSHA has a responsibility to protect all of America’s frontline workers and to fully enforce CDC guidelines as well as requirements in a new Emergency Temporary Standard on COVID for all employers as promised and urgently needed. This is a slap in the face to the millions of American frontline workers and their families who have been infected and killed by this deadly virus. As America’s largest union for grocery and meatpacking workers on the front lines, the UFCW will be pushing OSHA to immediately increase workplace safety inspections in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and health care facilities to make sure workers are kept safe and all employers are held accountable for protecting them on the job. Now, more than ever, we need to stand with America’s essential workers.”