UFCW Press Releases

America’s Largest Meatpacking Union Calls on White House for Real Accountability and Action To Protect Workers on Frontlines of COVID-19 Pandemic

Union Calls Latest Trump Admin. Fine Failure to Protect American Workers Essential to Food Supply Chain During Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union – which represents 1.3 million workers in meatpacking plants and other essential businesses across North America – condemned the new U.S. Department of Labor fine on JBS Foods for the COVID-19 outbreak at the company’s plant in Greeley, Colorado. UFCW, which represents workers at the plant, called the $15,615 fine insufficient given that the outbreak led to 8 worker deaths and over 200 worker infections.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone​ released the following statement:

“The failure of the federal government to protect American workers and our nation’s food supply has reached new lows. With this latest ‘so-called fine,’ OSHA and the Department of Labor prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they do not care about holding irresponsible corporations accountable for the lives lost or worker safety.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, meatpacking workers and UFCW have led the fight for better personal protective equipment, universal COVID-19 testing, better social distancing in plants, and the real and enforceable health and safety standards needed to keep these facilities safe. We have done our job, and all we have asked is that the federal government do its job and hold irresponsible employers accountable. This ‘so-called fine’ proves that this administration is incapable and unwilling to fulfill its duty to keep workers safe.

“Make no mistake, the Trump administration has once again failed to honor what is its sacred responsibility – protect the American people. Our country’s meatpacking workers and the millions of Americans they serve, deserve and expect better from this administration and the leaders sworn to protect us.”

Background:

As the largest North American meatpacking union, UFCW has been a leading national voice in the call to protect meatpacking workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UFCW represents employees at the JBS plant in Greeley, Colorado that is the subject of the latest fine. The union also represents workers at the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the focus of another Trump Administration fine this week. UFCW sounded the alarm early in the pandemic about the risks these workers faced, calling for action from public officials, and company leaders to provide the critical safety equipment and measures needed to protect employees as the virus devastated meatpacking plants across the country.

This week, UFCW confirmed that there have already been at least 122 meatpacking worker deaths and over 18,000 meatpacking workers infected or exposed to COVID-19. These numbers only include workers represented by UFCW.

As the New York Times reported, many meatpacking companies have refused to release internal numbers on worker deaths and infections, meaning that total number of meatpacking workers impacted by the virus is likely much higher that current public figures.

Meatpacking workers at the JBS Foods Greeley, Colorado plant are members of UFCW Local 7R. Workers at Smithfield’s Sioux Falls, South Dakota plant are members of UFCW Local 304A.

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UFCW International is the largest private sector union in the United States. UFCW International represents 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org.

America’s Largest Meatpacking Union Condemns Trump Admin. For Failure to Hold Smithfield Accountable for Outbreak of COVID-19 Worker Deaths and Infections

Union Calls New Trump Admin. Meatpacking Fine a “Slap on the Wrist” After Plant Failed to Protect Workers, With Multiple Deaths and Nearly 1,300 Worker Infections

Nationwide: 122 Meatpacking Worker Deaths, Over 18,000 Workers Infected or Exposed

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents 1.3 million workers in meatpacking plants and other essential businesses, condemned the new U.S. Department of Labor fine on Smithfield Foods as completely insufficient in the wake of the company’s failure to protect meatpacking workers at its Sioux Falls, South Dakota which reported nearly 1,300 COVID-19 infections and at least four deaths among its employees. As the union for Smithfield workers at this plant, UFCW called today’s fine by the Trump Administration insulting and a slap on the wrist that will do nothing to help those already infected or prevent future worker deaths.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone​ released the following statement:

“How much is the health, safety, and life of an essential worker worth? Based on the actions of the Trump Administration, clearly not much. This so-called ‘fine’ is a slap on the wrist for Smithfield, and a slap in the face of the thousands of American meatpacking workers who have been putting their lives on the line to help feed America since the beginning of this pandemic.

“OSHA has been asleep at the switch throughout this pandemic and this is just the latest example of the agency failing to do their job and take responsibility for worker safety. If we truly care about protecting workers and our nation’s food supply during this pandemic, the federal government must take action, beginning with an enforceable national safety standard, increased access to PPE and COVID-19 testing, and rigorous proactive inspections.

“Smithfield is a multi-billion-dollar corporation that failed to protect its workers, with multiple deaths and more than a thousand infections on their watch. This response by OSHA confirms that the company will not face any real consequences. The failure by the Trump Administration to hold Smithfield accountable makes clear that this White House cares more about industry profits than protecting America’s essential workers. Our country’s meatpacking workers, and the millions of American they serve, deserve and expect better from those sworn to protect us.”

Background:

As the largest North American meatpacking union, UFCW has been a leading national voice in the call to protect meatpacking workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UFCW represents employees at the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota that reported at least 1,294 meatpacking worker infections and four worker deaths from COVID-19. UFCW sounded the alarm early in the pandemic about the risks these workers faced, calling from for action from public officials, and company leaders to provide the critical safety equipment and measures needed to protect employees as the virus devastated meatpacking plants across the country.

UFCW confirmed today that there have already been at least 122 meatpacking worker deaths and over 18,000 meatpacking workers infected or exposed to COVID-19. These numbers only include workers represented by UFCW. As the New York Times reported, many meatpacking companies have refused to release internal numbers on worker deaths and infections, meaning that total number of meatpacking workers impacted by the virus is likely much higher that current public figures.

Meatpacking workers at Smithfield’s Sioux Falls, South Dakota plant are members of UFCW Local 304A.

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UFCW International is the largest private sector union in the United States. UFCW International represents 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org.

America’s Meatpacking Union, Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. Marcia Fudge Demand USDA Stop Endangering Poultry Workers on Frontlines of COVID-19 Pandemic

USDA’s Relentless Push for Faster Line Speeds Further Endangers Poultry Workers and Food Supply Already At Risk During Pandemic 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s meatpacking union with 1.3 million workers, along with U.S. Senator Cory Booker (New Jersey) and Representative Marcia Fudge (Ohio), announced their opposition to a proposed United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulation increasing line speeds in poultry plants across America.  

“The hard-working men and women of America’s poultry industry deserve safe workplaces,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “As our country’s poultry workers have been battling a pandemic, they should not have to also battle USDA seeking to make their workplaces less safe. Slower line speeds keep workers safer from injuries and ensure safe social distancing to stop the spread of coronavirus. The USDA must end its reckless efforts to increase line speeds, and instead put the safety of America’s workers and food supply first.”

“Fast line speeds worsen already unsafe conditions on slaughter lines and make it nearly impossible for workers to socially distance,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge.  “In fact, nearly all of the poultry plants that USDA allowed to operate faster line speeds this spring have been cited for worker safety violations or experienced COVID outbreaks.  In the middle of a pandemic, USDA should be prioritizing worker safety.  Congress must act now and pass my Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act to block USDA from increasing poultry line speeds and putting the health and safety of the meatpacking workforce at greater risk.”

“Despite a surge of COVID-19 outbreaks in meatpacking plants across the country, the USDA continued to grant line speed request waivers that threatened the health and safety of workers, their families, and consumers,” said Senator Cory Booker. “The USDA has now proposed to permanently increase line speeds in poultry plants—an action that is both dangerous and irresponsible. Now is the time, more than ever, that we pass the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act and protect workers and communities from the harm of these reckless giveaways to corporate agribusiness.”  

Background:

UFCW, the top union for American meatpacking and poultry workers, has been a leading national voice for strengthening safeguards in these plants, which have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

UFCW reports that COVID-19 continues to threaten frontline food workers across the country, with more than 250 food worker deaths and over 36,000 food workers infected or exposed. This includes at least 115 meatpacking worker deaths and over 17,700 meatpacking workers infected or exposed to the virus.

Poultry Plant Regulation

The USDA regulates poultry line speed in plants across the United States for both worker safety and to allow for food inspection. Current line speeds are about 140 birds per minute and the proposed regulation allows plants to operate at up to 175 birds per minute.

In 2017, the USDA considered a petition from the National Chicken Council to eliminate line speed limits. That effort was ultimately rejected after an outpouring of opposition from workers and consumers.

Since then, the USDA has continued to approve record numbers of waivers to allow individual plants to operate at dangerously fast speeds, despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Union and Legislative Action

The UFCW and Public Citizen have filed a lawsuit to stop this dangerous practice and prevent further line speed waivers in the poultry industry.

Senator Cory Booker along with Representative Fudge have introduced “The Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act” to ensure that USDA protects worker safety by ending this practice.

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National Hazard Pay Campaign Launches Today As COVID-19 Continues to Threaten and Sicken Thousands of America’s Frontline Workers

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Announces National Hazard Pay Campaign With Actions in 26 Cities and 10 States Targeting Top Grocery Chains

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) – America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million members, announced the launch of a new national campaign to restore hazard pay for millions of America’s frontline workers. The new campaign will call on the country’s leading grocery companies — including Whole Foods, Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons, Ahold — and many other essential businesses, to reinstate hazard pay in light of the continuing human cost being paid by America’s grocery workers and other essential employees during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of the first phase of the UFCW’s national hazard pay campaign, at least 26 worker actions will be held this week at grocery stores and other essential businesses across the country in CaliforniaTexasGeorgiaVirginiaColorado,WashingtonTennesseeMarylandWestVirginia, and other states hit hard by COVID-19.

The new campaign will include grassroots actions as well as targeted paid and digital media to highlight the serious health threats these workers continue to face. UFCW will connect customers and communities with essential workers to call on these businesses to guarantee hazard pay as long as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone said, “America’s grocery workers are putting their lives on the line every day that they walk into the store, because this pandemic is far from over and the health threats are just as real now as they were when this crisis began. It is outrageous that the CEOs of these companies refuse to restore hazard pay even as more of these workers are getting sick and dying every week. Hazard pay for grocery workers must be reinstated now.”

This past week, UFCW confirmed there have been at least 103 grocery worker deaths and over 14,300 grocery workers infected or exposed to COVID-19. As a new investigation by Bloombergreported last week, the actual national number of workers who have died, become sick, or been exposed, is likely much higher given that America’s largest food companies have launched an effort to hide the true human cost.

“While top grocery chains rake in billions in profits during this pandemic, these frontline grocery workers continue to put themselves at risk to ensure our families have the food we need. As long as the hazard of COVID-19 continues, these companies must do what is right and provide the hazard pay these grocery workers have earned and deserve,” Perrone added.

During the campaign, the UFCW will be releasing first person testimonials from workers on the frontlines, as well as customers and local community members, calling on these companies to provide hazard pay to all of these essential workers. To view these videos, please click here.

Background:

UFCW has been a leading national voice in calling for grocery chains to restore hazard pay for these workers who continue to be on the frontlines of this pandemic.

In a CNN op-ed with Senator Kamala Harris, the union called for top companies like Kroger, Whole Foods, Albertsons and others to ensure that all of their employees receive the hazard pay that they have earned for putting themselves at risk.

Additionally, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown led a group of Senate Democrats in a letter calling on the CEOs of the country’s top supermarket chains to end the delays and reinstate grocery worker hazard pay.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Demands CEOs End Gag Rules Endangering Public Health, Calls For National Registry of Frontline Worker COVID- 19 Infections

Union for Grocery, Retail, and Meatpacking Workers Demand Transparency from Top Companies As COVID-19 Cases Continue to Spike

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) – which represents 1.3 million workers in grocery, meatpacking, and other industries on the frontlines of the pandemic – condemned the CEOs of Amazon, Target, McDonald’s, and other top companies for instituting “gag rules” that prevent workers from disclosing COVID-19 infections in the workplace. A new report exposing the COVID-19 gag rules at top companies highlights the stunning effort to silence workers, and intimidate whistleblowers seeking to raise awareness about the threats to their workplace and public safety. 

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:  

“All Americans should be outraged by this report about COVID-19 gag rules at Amazon, Target, McDonald’s, and other top companies. It is outrageous that these CEOs would deliberately keep Americans in the dark about COVID-19 infections at their companies, directly threatening public health and worker safety in the middle of a pandemic that has already cost nearly 200,000 American lives.

“This new report exposes what UFCW has long warned the public about – that many of our nation’s largest corporations are purposely trying to hide the full extent of COVID-19 infections among their employees. Even worse, these actions by Amazon and other top companies are part of a ruthless attempt to silence whistleblowers at a time when transparency is more important than ever to keeping Americans safe from COVID-19.

“For the sake of all of our families’ safety, UFCW is once more calling for the immediate creation of a national public registry of COVID-19 worker infections to ensure that our elected leaders and the American people have all the facts about how many workers have died, been infected, or exposed to this deadly virus. We cannot afford to wait for the next outbreak or for more lives to be needlessly lost. Americans need and deserve answers now.”

Background:

UFCW has been a leading national voice in calling for action to strengthen transparency in tracking COVID-19 infections among America’s frontline workers.

On a June 25 national press call, UFCW called for the creation of a new national public registry to track COVID-19 worker infections. As proposed by UFCW, the public registry would require all companies with 1,000 employees or more to publicly disclose the number of COVID-19 deaths, infections, and exposures among their employees.

This week, UFCW confirmed that COVID-19 continues to threaten frontline food workers across the country, with more than 250 food worker deaths and over 36,000 food workers infected or exposed. This includes at least 103 grocery worker deaths and over 14,300 grocery workers infected or exposed to COVID-19.

Additionally, UFCW confirmed that there have been at least 115 meatpacking worker deaths and over 17,700 meatpacking workers infected or exposed to the virus. And in food processing plants, the union confirmed there have been at least 35 food processing worker deaths and more than 4,900 food processing workers infected or exposed.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Calls for Action to Prioritize Safety of Frontline Workers Essential to Food Supply Chain During COVID-19

Following President Trump’s North Carolina Visit, UFCW Calls on Elected Leaders for Action on Hazard Pay, National Mask Mandate, Workplace Safety Union Confirms Over 250 Food Worker Deaths, With Over 36,000 Food Workers Infected or Exposed to COVID-19 

WASHINGTON, DC – Following today’s President Trump visit to a produce facility in North Carolina, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) – which represents 1.3 million workers in grocery, meatpacking, food processing, and other industries essential to the U.S. food supply during the pandemic – called for the White House and all elected leaders to support these frontline workers with action on hazard pay, a national mask mandate, and stronger workplace safety standards.  

Since the pandemic began, there have been over 250 food worker deaths and over 36,000 food workers infected or exposed to COVID-19 in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and food processing facilities. 

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:  

“America’s food workers have been on the frontlines of this public health crisis, and their safety must come first. Frontline workers across the food supply chain have been putting themselves in harm’s way to help put food on the plates of all Americans every day of this pandemic. This is not about politics. This is about the safety of millions of American food workers who are essential to our country’s food supply. 

“President Trump and all of our elected leaders have a responsibility to stand up for these brave American workers. A strong national agenda for America’s food workers must include hazard pay for the risks these workers are facing, a national mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19, increased access to COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment, and enforcement of clear safety standards for all essential frontline workers for as long as this pandemic continues.

 “Every day, more of our country’s frontline food workers are getting sick and dying from this terrible virus. Our elected leaders must act to protect these workers and keep our food supply chain secure. We cannot wait any longer.”

 Background:

 UFCW has been a leading national voice in calling for action to support and protect grocery and meatpacking workers who have been on the frontlines of the pandemic.  

Today, UFCW confirmed that among the union’s members there have been at least 103 grocery worker deaths and over 14,300 grocery workers infected or exposed to COVID-19. Additionally, UFCW confirmed that there have been at least 115 meatpacking worker deaths and over 17,700 meatpacking workers infected or exposed to the virus.  

In food processing plants, the union confirmed there have been at least 35 food processing worker deaths and more than 4,900 food processing workers infected or exposed.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org

Trump Admin. Meat Industry Deal Threatens Safety of Thousands of American Workers on Frontlines of COVID-19

America’s Largest Meatpacking Union Condemns New OSHA Pact, Calling it Shameless Corporate Giveaway Exploiting Pandemic to Give Industry Even More Power to Police Itself on Worker Safety   

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents 1.3 million workers in meatpacking plants across North America, condemned a new agreement just announced by the U.S. Department of Labor and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), the lobbying arm of the meat and poultry industry. UFCW called the pact a shameless corporate giveaway giving the industry even more power to police itself and ignore safety measures essential to protecting meatpacking workers who are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone​ released the following statement:

“This deal is an outrage, and it makes it clear that the Trump Administration does not care at all about protecting the brave meatpacking workers helping feed American families. Throughout the pandemic, employers have continued to keep workers and the general public in the dark about illness in the plants while trying to shield themselves from any liability for the role they played in the loss of life. It is shocking that the Department of Labor is now giving the meat industry even more power to police itself on worker safety.

“This is a shameless attempt to silence worker voices and give giant corporations direct access to the federal agency that is supposed to be in charge of oversight and accountability. Allowing the meat industry to conduct safety oversight of itself is dangerous for both workers and the safety of the food we eat.

“At a time when thousands of American workers in meatpacking plants have gotten sick and over 100 workers have already died, the White House can no longer ignore the severity of this problem. Americans know our food supply is safe when the workers who produce it are safe and UFCW continues to demand clear, enforceable standards that would prevent plant shutdowns and, most importantly, protect workers before even more get sick and die.”

Background:

As the largest North American meatpacking union, UFCW has been a leading voice in the push to strengthen protections for meatpacking workers throughout the industry who have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic since day one.

UFCW confirmed today that there have already been at least 113 meatpacking worker deaths and over 17,000 meatpacking workers infected or exposed to COVID-19. These numbers only include workers represented by UFCW, and with many meatpacking companies refusing to release internal numbers, it is likely that meatpacking worker deaths and infections are much higher.

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UFCW International is the largest private sector union in the United States. UFCW International represents 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org.

Biden Call for National Mask Mandate Highlights Push by America’s Largest Food & Retail Union to Protect Workers on Frontlines of COVID-19 

Union for Grocery and Meatpacking Workers Facing Daily Risks in Pandemic Urges Governors to Mandate Masks Nationwide to Combat Spread of COVID-19 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents 1.3 million workers in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and other essential businesses, welcomed Vice President Joe Biden’s call for a national mask mandate for the next three months to protect workers and combat the spread of COVID-19. Biden cited health expert estimates that a national mask mandate would save over 40,000 lives. UFCW has made public mask mandates a priority since the beginning of the pandemic. 

UFCW International President Marc Perrone​ released the following statement: 

“Vice President Biden’s call for a national mask mandate underscores the need for immediate action to protect millions of America’s frontline workers. As COVID-19 spikes across the country continue to put our communities at risk, it is time for governors to step up and make a public mask mandate the law in all 50 states.  

“In every grocery store in America, frontline workers are continuing to put themselves in harm’s way to make sure our families have the food we need. Every day that governors hesitate to enact mask mandates that are fully enforced, millions of American workers and shoppers will continue to be needlessly put in danger of being infected by COVID-19.  

“It’s time for our nation’s leaders to put the safety of the American people first by enforcing public mask mandates nationwide. Our country’s workers and families cannot wait any longer.” 

Background 

UFCW has been a leading national voice in the push for public mask mandates to combat the spread of COVID-19 and protect millions of America’s frontline workers. In July 2020, UFCW joined over 100 health experts to call for a national mask mandate in a full-page New York Times advertisement. 

A recent USA Today report shows that over 40 percent of governors still refuse to enact public mask mandates, including in states like Arizona, Florida, and Georgia which have seen COVID-19 cases continue to increase at alarming rates. 

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UFCW International is the largest private sector union in the United States. UFCW International represents 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org

 

Kamala Harris As Biden Running Mate Applauded by America’s Largest Food & Retail Union

UFCW Praises Harris As National Voice for COVID-19 Hazard Pay, Unbreakable Champion for Millions of American Workers on Frontlines of Pandemic  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents 1.3 million workers, announced its support for U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (California) as the running mate for Vice President Joe Biden. From fighting for hazard pay for grocery workers to her championing of the bread and butter issues that matter most to hardworking families, UFCW said that Senator Harris has proven her unbreakable support for all those who work at America’s grocery stores, meatpacking plants, pharmacies, hospitals and other essential businesses on the frontlines of COVID-19. 

UFCW International President Marc Perrone​ released the following statement: 

“This historic ticket will bring the real change our country needs. Senator Kamala Harris’ record and actions prove that she is a strong champion for America’s hardworking men and women. During this pandemic, both Vice President Biden and Senator Harris have highlighted the dangers our country’s frontline workers continue to face. Together, they have made clear that our nation’s CEOs and elected leaders must put these workers first by reinstating hazard pay, expanding COVID testing, and strengthening access to the protective gear these brave workers need to do these essential jobs.  

“As millions of America’s frontline workers continue to put themselves in harm’s way during this pandemic, Vice President Biden and Senator Harris will bring the strong and moral leadership that our nation desperately needs. Most importantly, they will put politics aside, and will do what is necessary to protect all workers, and rebuild our economy so that every hardworking family has the opportunity to succeed.” 

Background: 

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris has been a strong partner for UFCW and a champion for its 1.3 million workers in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and other essential businesses who have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic since day one.

 In a recent CNN op-ed, Senator Harris joined UFCW in calling for restoring hazard pay for America’s 3 million grocery workers who continue to put themselves in harm’s way during the pandemic to ensure families have the food they need.

 In October 2019, Senator Harris joined UFCW members in Iowa to speak about the challenges facing workers across the country. Senator Harris told UFCW members that she would increase accountability for companies that rely heavily on automation and want to do business with the federal government, pledging that she would hold public hearings outlining the impact of automation on the workforce.

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UFCW International is the largest private sector union in the United States. UFCW International represents 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org

Senator Kamala Harris & America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Call on CEOs to Reinstate Hazard Pay for Grocery Workers As COVID-19 Danger Continues

In CNN Op-Ed, Senator Harris and UFCW Highlight Ongoing Risk With More Than 7,000 Grocery Workers Infected by COVID-19  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) called on the CEOs of the country’s largest grocery store chains to reinstate hazard pay for their workers who are still on the frontlines of the pandemic as COVID-19 cases surpass 4.8 million nationwide.  

In a new CNN op-ed, UFCW International President Marc Perrone and Senator Harris and condemn America’s largest grocery chains for cutting hazard pay for their workers, even as the companies report record sales and the threat from COVID-19 continues to endanger employees. Excerpts from the op-ed are below: 

“Grocery store workers are putting their lives on the line every day that they walk into the store. This pandemic is far from over and the health threats that grocery workers face are just as real now as they were when this crisis began. 

“While top grocery chains rake in billions in profits during this pandemic, these frontline workers cannot choose to work from home like the corporate executives of these companies. Without these frontline workers, our families would not have the food we need to get through this public health crisis.

 “Given the seriousness of this pandemic, and the essential jobs they do, the time has come to reinstate hazard pay for all of America’s grocery workers. For these brave men and women who continue to be on the frontlines of this crisis, our country should demand nothing less.” 

Click here to read the full CNN op-ed from Senator Harris and UFCW. 

Background: 

UFCW has been a leading national voice in the call to strengthen protections and support for America’s 3 million grocery workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. As of today, UFCW confirmed that among its members, there have been at least 97 grocery worker deaths nationwide, with 7,188 grocery workers infected and at least 6,122 grocery workers exposed to COVID-19 

In its report on the first 100 days of COVID-19, UFCW confirmed that April experienced the highest single-month total for grocery worker deaths with 46 supermarket employees killed by COVID-19. May saw the grocery industry’s biggest overall monthly spike in COVID-19 cases with 5,901 new grocery workers infected or exposed. 

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org

Jeff Bezos and Amazon Must Be Held Accountable by Congress for Failure to Disclose COVID-19 Employee Infections and Deaths, Attack on Worker Rights

Ahead of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Testifying to Congress, America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Calls on Lawmakers to Hold Amazon & Bezos Accountable for Company Failures

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, ahead of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifying to Congress, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million workers, condemned Amazon for blatant efforts to stop employees from exercising their right to join a union and endangering both workers and consumers by failing to disclose internal numbers on how many Amazon employees have been infected by COVID-19. Additionally, UFCW recently challenged Amazon’s antitrust practices in a new complaint to the Federal Trade Commission.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“The time is long past to hold Jeff Bezos and Amazon accountable for their failures and irresponsibility that has consistently placed Amazon profits ahead of the safety and rights of American workers.

“It is outrageous that in the middle of a pandemic, Amazon refused to tell the American people how many of its workers have been exposed, become sick, or died from COVID-19. Even worse, Amazon has fired and attacked its own workers who bravely spoke out against the company’s unethical and irresponsible behavior. Enough is enough.

“Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos must be forced to answer the tough questions and be held accountable by Congress for the company’s blatant attacks on workers, and their failures to keep workers safe as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on our country.”

Background:

UFCW has been a leading national voice calling for greater accountability for tech companies for their worker mistreatment, including Amazon and Facebook whose CEOs are testifying to Congress today.

In April 2020, UFCW condemned Amazon for firing the worker who led the recent strike at its Staten Island facility. In December 2018, the retail branch of UFCW launched a campaign to unionize Amazon warehouse workers. UFCW has also called on Amazon for action to protect its Whole Foods workers as more continue to be infected by COVID-19.

In June 2020, UFCW called out Facebook for creating a tool that allows companies to censor communications among their workers about unionizing. On the Facebook Workplace platform, an intranet-style chat and office collaboration product, the initial design would enable employers to blacklist words like unionize in communications on the platform.

In March 2020, UFCW condemned Instacart for failing to immediately provide the COVID-19 hazard pay and personal protective equipment needed to support and keep their workers safe at the beginning of the pandemic. In February 2020, Instacart workers in the Chicago area joined UFCW, making history as the first Instacart workers to join a union.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org. 

Poultry Workers, Already at Risk From COVID-19, Sue USDA Over Dangerous Line Speeds

 America’s Largest Meatpacking Union, Public Citizen Demand End to USDA Waivers Allowing Dangerous Poultry Line Speeds

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and five of its local unions represented by Public Citizen Litigation Group filed a federal lawsuit to end the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) waivers allowing poultry plants to increase production line speeds and further endanger workers already facing elevated risks during the COVID-19 pandemic. UFCW represents more than 250,000 workers across the meatpacking and food processing industries.

The plaintiffs argue that the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) waiver program should be set aside and 10 currently active waivers should be voided. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that the USDA failed to follow required procedures and ignored the agency’s own rules and policies when it adopted the waiver program. Click here to read the text of today’s lawsuit.

“America’s poultry workers have been on the frontlines of this pandemic since day one, putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure our families have the food we need during this crisis,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “As COVID-19 continues to infect thousands of meatpacking workers, it is stunning that USDA is further endangering these workers by allowing poultry companies to increase line speeds to dangerous new levels that increase the risk of injury and make social distancing next to impossible. This lawsuit will help to finally stop this dangerous corporate giveaway from the USDA. Now more than ever, we must put the safety of frontline workers and our country’s food supply first.”

“The law is clear that an agency must follow proper procedures when adopting a new program and must consider and address all relevant factors, including its own prior positions on the same issue,”said Nandan Joshi, the Public Citizen attorney serving as lead counsel on the case. “FSIS did not follow these basic rules when it decided to allow more poultry plants to exceed the agency’s own regulatory line speed limits.”

Background:

UFCW recently announced that in the first 100 days of COVID-19, there have already been at least 65 meatpacking worker deaths and 14,214 meatpacking workers infected or exposed. April saw the biggest spike in new COVID-19 meatpacking cases with 8,632 workers infected or exposed. May was the deadliest month for the industry with 38 worker deaths last month alone.

The five local unions who are plaintiffs in this case – UFCW Local 227, UFCW Local 1529, UFCW Local 1995, UFCW Local 2008 and Retail, Wholesale And Department Store Union – Mid South Council – represent more than 35,000 poultry workers at processing plants in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi and Missouri.

UFCW and Public Citizen have been leading national voices calling on the USDA to strengthen corporate oversight in meatpacking and increase safeguards to protect workers and ensure our country’s food supply is secure. In July 2020, UFCW announced its support for new legislation in Congress to roll back dangerous line speed increases across the meatpacking industry. And in October 2019, UFCW and Public Citizen filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the USDA’s rule allowing pork plants to increase line speeds.

Poultry Worker Safety

Poultry processing poses a wide range of risks to workers, including musculoskeletal problems – such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and “trigger finger” – and acute physical injuries, such as sprains, lacerations, contusions and amputations. Federal and private research, as well as the experiences of poultry workers, show that an increase in work pace caused by faster line speeds increases the risk of injury to workers.

USDA Regulation of Poultry Industry

In April 2020 alone, FSIS approved 15 waivers allowing poultry plants to increase their maximum line speed. These waivers do not protect our food supply, but they create greater risk of worker injury, including increased risk of catching and spreading the virus as workers are forced to crowd together to keep pace with faster processing speeds.

In 2014, FSIS adopted a rule that set the maximum line speed in poultry plants at 140 birds per minute. At that time, FSIS acknowledged the extensive rulemaking record demonstrating that faster line speeds can increase the harm to poultry plant workers. In 2017, the National Chicken Council, a trade association that lobbies for the chicken industry, asked FSIS to lift line speed limits entirely. Although FSIS declined that request, it stated that it would grant more waivers that allow plants to operate at up to 175 birds per minute.

FSIS announced the waiver program in early 2018 but did not follow proper procedures when adopting that program. The Administrative Procedure Act requires an agency to give the public prior notice and an opportunity to comment before adopting a new rule. Instead, FSIS created the program behind closed doors. FSIS justified the program as a way to allow plants to experiment with new technology – even though increasing line speed is not a new technology. FSIS failed to adequately explain why the new waiver program was needed or why the program ignores the worker safety concerns that FSIS had previously acknowledged.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org

America’s Largest Retail Union: Amazon Exploitation of COVID-19 Pandemic Endangers Frontline Workers

UFCW Calls on Federal Trade Commission for Action to Hold Amazon Accountable for Anti-Competitive Practices Putting Workers at Risk 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest retail union with 1.3 million workers, joined a coalition of major labor unions filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging Amazon is exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to further entrench its market dominance and calling on authorities to take action to halt the company’s growing anti-competitive behavior.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“Amazon represents a clear and present danger to American workers and our economy. The company has not only refused to acknowledge the full impact of COVID-19 on its workers, it has exploited this pandemic to increase its market dominance as well as its power over employees throughout its distribution centers.

“With more than one-third of all warehouse workers in the U.S., Amazon has a responsibility to be a leader, and to be setting strong safety standards. Instead, Amazon has chosen to ignore the dangerous working conditions its workers continue to face every day. The simple fact is that a union is the most effective counterweight to protect workers and their families from irresponsible corporate actors like Amazon, especially during a pandemic.

“As COVID-19 continues to endanger tens of thousands of these warehouse workers, federal and state government leaders must hold Amazon accountable for the dangerous working conditions in these facilities and do much more to ensure the health and safety of all of our country’s frontline workers.”

Joining UFCW in the new complaint to the Federal Trade Commission is a broad coalition of groups which includes the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Communications Workers of America, and Change to Win.

“We are highly alarmed by Amazon’s conduct during the unprecedented crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” write UFCW and the coalition in the complaint to the FTC. “Amazon is taking advantage of the economic desperation and upheaval caused by COVID to engage in new or intensified conduct that further entrenches its market power and dominance.”

“The situation is urgent,” the complaint reads, as “COVID-19 allowed Amazon’s role in the economy to metastasize.” Specifically, the unions highlight:

  • Amazon’s power has grown in ecommerce as the pandemic has accelerated a decades-long shift towards online retail;
  • Amazon is leveraging its pandemic-strengthened position to further exploit its power over sellers, who did not abandon the company during the crisis;
  • Amazon now directly employs one-third of all warehouse employees in the country, up from one-quarter before the pandemic, positioning it to further exploit workers; and
  • Amazon has moved aggressively to scoop up start-ups and established companies weakened by the pandemic.

“The crisis has resulted in new weaknesses in our economy, and Amazon has not hesitated to exploit these weaknesses in ways that further bolster its hold on consumers, small businesses, and workers,” the complaint continues.

Background:

Thursday’s submission follows a sweeping petition filed by the five labor organizations in February, calling on the FTC to investigate Amazon’s anticompetitive practices.

Amazon’s Market Share Grows 

The domestic e-commerce sector grew at an accelerated pace during the pandemic and Amazon stands to benefit disproportionately from that growth. Because the offline retail sector has contracted drastically, and is unlikely to recover, Amazon will hold at least 12 percent of domestic retail—offline and on—in only four years even without further growth in its market share.

The company’s overall retail market share, while notable in its own right, does not reflect Amazon’s even starker dominance in individual product categories—a more traditional metric for judging whether the company satisfies the legal definition of a monopoly. For example, Amazon was already a dominant player in electronics, with 45 percent of the domestic ecommerce electronics market in 2019. But its position has strengthened as ecommerce electronics sales have grown at the expense of in-store sales, during the pandemic, increasing 58 percent in April, according to Adobe Analytics, as all in-store sales dwindled.

Exploiting Sellers as the Pandemic Raged 

The pandemic has strengthened Amazon’s grip over sellers, who have not turned to its competitors despite the company effectively cutting them off from online retail entirely during the height of the pandemic.

Amazon’s unilateral decision-making process around essential items was neither predictable nor transparent, kept sellers from accessing and earning income on their own inventory and left them with thousands of “pending” orders placed by impatient customers. Yet in spite of the enormous hindrances Amazon placed on the operations of sellers in the United States, sellers did not shift to competing platforms.

The complaint cites one possible explanation: in response to pandemic-related demand, Amazon increased its “suggested” product inventory levels for third-party sellers. If they did not maintain their “suggested” inventory levels, their products were demoted in search results and lost the “best seller” label that leads to improved sales. As a result, sellers sent all available inventory to Amazon, to the detriment of grocery and other retailers who do not disfavor sellers’ products based on their inventory levels, a ProPublica investigation cited in the complaint revealed.

“Amazon’s actions represent an extraordinary flexing of market muscle and true peril to a free market,” the complaint reads. “A company that will amass all available supplies of certain goods begins to look alarmingly like a monopsonist exercising market power. “Action such as this during a national pandemic would exploit desperate companies and people for considerable gain.”

Gaining Even More Power Over Warehouse Workers

Amazon already held a dominant share of many local warehousing and storage labor markets before it announced the hiring of 175,000 new warehouse workers, including 125,000 permanent ones, during the pandemic. As a result of its rapid expansion at a time the overall national labor market was contracting, the company gained even more power over vulnerable workers.

The company took full advantage of this power imbalance. According to a nationwide survey of 4,348 Amazon workers that Change to Win conducted between April 29 and May 9, more than a third of all Amazon workers surveyed—including those employed by Whole Foods grocery stores, and those employed by contractors staffing Amazon warehouses—specifically reported receiving no training about hazards associated with COVID-19; among warehouse workers surveyed, this proportion reached 41 percent. This was the case despite the fact that, according to the survey respondents, six in ten Amazon workers were aware of confirmed COVID-19 cases at their workplaces.

“Regulators should be concerned that Amazon’s growth as an employer has outpaced that of the warehouse sector as a whole,” the complaint reads. “Amazon’s clear awareness of its near-absolute power over warehouse workers’ wages and working conditions, exemplified by Amazon’s persistent disregard for the health and safety of these same ‘essential’ workers, indicates the consequences that such growth can have.”

Pouncing on the Weak

In the midst of all of COVID-driven market conditions, Amazon took advantage of several opportunities to acquire companies or otherwise expand its business, in ways that should be expected to further increase its power across a range of markets or market segments.

The company announced that it was acquiring self-driving vehicle start-up Zoox in late June 2020, after the six-year-old company had laid off 120 contractors and 100 employees in April, citing pressures of the pandemic. Three months after shutdowns prevented Zoox from test-driving its cars, Amazon reportedly paid $1.2 billion for the company, far less than its 2018 valuation of $3.2 billion. The acquisition quickly expands Amazon’s capacity in driverless technology, a key area of growth for the company, and one that will serve its existing goals of minimizing delivery costs, time, and reliance on humans, rather than bringing the company into an entirely new industry in which it would have to compete for customers, according to the complaint.

Amazon has reportedly shown interest in other pandemic-distressed firms in adjacent or complementary markets as well, including AMC Theaters and J.C. Penney. And it took advantage of increased pandemic-related cash flow to expand its core business, leasing 12 new Boeing 767s. While many airlines are downsizing due to COVID-19, Amazon’s, “push for faster and cheaper at-home delivery is moving ahead on an ambitious timetable,” reads an academic study cited in the complaint. “Amazon Air’s robust expansion makes it one of the biggest stories in the air cargo industry in years.”

The complaint argues that the pandemic has exposed how Amazon will assert its power when its dominance is largely unrivaled—by either brick and mortar retail or by ecommerce providers with less well-developed fulfillment operations. With the COVID-19 crisis showing no signs of abating, the time to act is now, the unions argue.

“In the absence of immediate and decisive action to curb Amazon’s most abusive practices and its market power, a dominant Amazon—that edges out or undercuts competitors across a wide swath of industries, from consumer merchandise to movie content to delivery technology, and squeezes dry all the various players up and down its vertical supply chain—could be here to stay,” the complaint concludes.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org

UFCW Statement on Black Lives Matter National Day of Action

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union, stood with the 1.3 million workers it represents in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and many other essential industries for a Black Lives Matter national day of action to demand racial and economic justice in the workplace and the communities we serve.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“As America’s largest food and retail union, representing workers of color across the country on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, UFCW is proud to stand with its members and millions more in a national day of action to say with one united voice that Black Lives Matter.”

“Our country’s elected leaders and giant corporations have stood by for too long as racial injustice has plagued our communities and hurt so many hardworking families who are the backbone of our economy. UFCW members work at some of the biggest companies in the country and live in every Congressional district. Nationwide our members will be making their voices heard as we stand with SEIU and all labor unions to say the time for action is now.”

Background:

UFCW is joined in the Black Lives Matter national day of action by a wide range of labor and advocacy organizations. Participants in today’s action include the Service Employees International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, American Federation of Teachers, Jobs with Justice, Working Families Party, Greenpeace USA, Sunrise Movement, Indivisible, MoveOn, Sierra Club, MomsRising, and Demand Justice . Click here to view the full list.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at ufcw.org

Senators Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren Call on Top 15 Grocery CEOs to Extend COVID-19 Hazard Pay for All Frontline Workers

On National Press Call, UFCW Announces New Numbers: 93 Grocery Worker Deaths, 12,405 Grocery Workers Infected or Exposed as COVID Cases Spike 

Senators & UFCW Demand Top Companies Provide Hazard Pay, Establish Mask Mandates to Protect All Shoppers and Workers  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million workers, held a national press conference with U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), calling on top grocery and retail companies to reinstate hazard pay for frontline workers as COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the country. On the press call, UFCW announced there have now been 93 grocery worker deaths and 12,405 grocery workers infected or exposed among the union’s members. Click here for the full video recording of the press conference. 

Senators Brown and Warren highlighted a new letter they led with Senate Democrats, calling 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 Sens. Brown and Warren, the letter to the top 15 grocery chain CEOs was signed by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (C-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). A full list of companies receiving the letter is below. 

During the call, UFCW also released the results of a new national poll of 4,000 grocery workers, highlighting the challenges these workers face on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic: 

  • 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 and getting their 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 percent of workers say an even worse second wave of COVID-19 cases is coming  

The following are statements from Senators Brown, Warren, and UFCW President Marc Perrone: 

“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 Sherrod Brown (Ohio). “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 Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts). “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.” 

“America’s grocery workers are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, bravely putting themselves in harm’s way every day as millions of Americans work from home. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 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,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “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. 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,” Perrone added. “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.” 

Click below for copies of the Letters to the 15 Major Grocery Store Chain CEOs:

 

  1. Ahold Delhaize
  2. Albertsons
  3. Aldi
  4. Costco
  5. Dierbergs
  6. Kroger
  7. Mejier
  8. Publix
  9. Schnucks
  10. Smart & Final
  11. Sprouts
  12. Trader Joes
  13. Walmart
  14. Wegmans
  15. Whole Foods

   

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

 

UFCW: Kroger Mask Mandate for Grocery Customers Long Overdue, Underscores Need for Action in All 50 States

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Calls for Mask Mandates Nationwide to Protect Workers and Shoppers as COVID-19 Cases Skyrocket

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union representing 1.3 million workers – including Kroger grocery workers across the country, called the new policy by Kroger to require that customers wear masks in stores long overdue. With COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in states like Arizona, Florida, and Texas, the union called the Kroger policy an important step which underscores the need for action to mandate masks in all 50 states.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“Kroger’s action to mandate masks for customers is long overdue and an important step that UFCW has been calling for since the beginning of the pandemic. To help save lives, every retailer and grocery store across this nation must adopt a mask requirement, and enforcement must be done by trained professionals, not retail workers already stretched thin during this crisis.

“While action by companies to require masks is essential, the brutal reality is that this is not nearly enough to turn the tide as COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket in states like Arizona, Florida, and Texas. Across the country, every governor and mayor must step up and make masks mandatory at all supermarkets and retail stores. Without universal mask mandates that are fully enforced nationwide, hundreds of thousands of Americans will continue to get sick and die. We cannot wait any longer.”

Background:

UFCW recently announced that in the first 100 days of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have already been 278 worker deaths and nearly 44,419 workers infected or exposed among its members in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, healthcare facilities, and other essential businesses.

In grocery stores across the country, there have been at least 93 worker deaths and 12,200 workers infected or exposed. April experienced the highest single-month total for grocery worker deaths with 46 supermarket employees killed by COVID-19. May saw the grocery industry’s biggest overall spike in COVID-19 cases with 5,901 new grocery workers infected or exposed.

A new USA Today report shows that 50 percent of governors still refuse to enact public mask mandates, including in states like Arizona, Florida, and Georgia which have seen COVID-19 cases continue to increase at alarming rates.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

 

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union, 100 Health Experts Call For Mask Mandates in All 50 States to Combat COVID-19

In Full-Page New York Times Ad, UFCW and Top Health Experts Call for Mask Mandates Nationwide to Protect Workers and Shoppers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union representing 1.3 million workers, joined over 100 health experts in a new call to enact public mask mandates in all 50 states to combat the spread of COVID-19 as infections pass 3 million and both shoppers and frontline workers continue to be at risk. 

In a full-page advertisement in the New York Times set to run in this Sunday’s print edition, UFCW and a coalition of health experts call on elected officials for immediate action to make masks mandatory in public spaces in all 50 states. A new report shows the majority of governors have failed to enact public mask mandates. 

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement: 

“As COVID-19 spikes across the country continue to put America’s frontline workers at risk, it is time for governors, members of Congress, and the Trump Administration to step up and make public mask mandates the law in all 50 states.  

“In every grocery store in America, frontline workers are continuing to put themselves in harm’s way to make sure our families have the food we need. Without immediate action, these brave workers will continue to get sick and die. The science is clear – masks are the most powerful tool we have to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep both workers and shoppers safe.  

“With governors in the majority of states refusing to make masks mandatory, millions of Americans are needlessly being put in danger every day. It’s time for elected leaders to pull their heads out of the sand and make masks mandatory in all 50 states to protect these brave workers and the millions of families they serve.”  

In addition to UFCW, the open letter to elected leaders is signed by over 100 health experts from the World Economic Forum; MIT; Harvard; Stanford; Yale; the National Academy of Sciences, and many other leading organizations.

“Research suggests that over 200,000 American COVID-19 cases have already been averted thanks to the mask requirements covering much of the US, and it is estimated that requirements in the rest of the country could add over $1 trillion dollars to the US GDP,” said Jeremy Howard, a Distinguished Research Scientist at the University of San Francisco who was a co-organizing signatory to the letter.

Background: 

The New York Times ad can be viewed here, and the text is included below:

We have an urgent message about some critical new scientific research. It strongly suggests that requiring fabric mask use in public places could be amongst the most powerful tools to stop the community spread of COVID-19.

An international cross-disciplinary review of the scientific research by 19 experts and other recent research shows that:  

  • People are most infectious in the initial period of infection, when it is common to have few or no symptoms
  • Cloth masks obstruct a high portion of the droplets from the mouth and nose that spread the virus
  • Non-medical masks have been effective in reducing transmission of coronavirus
  • Cloth masks can be washed in soapy water and re-used
  • Places and time periods where mask usage is required or widespread have been shown to substantially lower community transmission
  • Public mask wearing is most effective at stopping spread of the virus when the vast majority of the public uses masks
  • Laws appear to be highly effective at increasing compliance and slowing or stopping the spread of COVID-19 

The preponderance of evidence, in both laboratory and clinical settings, indicates that mask wearing reduces the transmissibility per contact by reducing transmission of infected droplets. The decreased transmissibility could substantially reduce the death toll, other harms to public health, job losses and economic losses. The cost of such masks is very low by comparison.  

Modeling suggests that widespread public mask use, in conjunction with other measures, could bring the effective reproduction number (R) beneath 1.0, thus halting the growth of the pandemic.  

Therefore, we ask that government officials require cloth masks to be worn in all public places, such as stores, transportation systems, and public buildings as soon as possible. This action will prevent people who are infectious from unknowingly spreading the disease.  

We also ask business leaders who offer products and services to the public to require their employees and customers to wear masks whether or not it is required by local law. This vital step will help protect workers and customers. 

Such requirements will greatly increase the rate of mask wearing. This should be done in conjunction with, not as a replacement for, hand hygiene, physical distancing, testing, and contact tracing strategies.  

This requirement should be introduced alongside clear guidelines for the production, use and sanitization or re-use of face masks. We urge you to also consider their distribution as shortages allow.  

There is no need to wait for availability of medical-grade masks; any face covering, including a piece of cloth, a scarf, bandana, t-shirt, or paper towel, appears to be effective. 

 Go to www.masks4all.co to learn more.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

 

As COVID-19 Threatens America’s Food Supply Chain, UFCW Calls on Congress to Prioritize Safety by Slowing Production Speeds in Meatpacking Plants

Union for 250,000 Workers in Meatpacking and Food Processing Calls for Slower Line Speeds, Safer Workplaces for Essential Workers Endangered by COVID-19 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents more than 250,000 workers in food processing and meatpacking plants, announced its support for the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act, introduced by U.S. Representatives Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), and Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02), which would impose safe line speed limits at meatpacking plants to ensure worker safety and social distancing. This comes at a critical moment for the U.S. food supply chain as COVID-19 continues to impact meatpacking plants and workers across the country.  

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:  

“America’s meatpacking workers have been on the frontlines of this pandemic since day one, putting themselves in harm’s way to make sure our families have the food we need. As COVID-19 continues to put our country’s meatpacking workers at risk, we must take action to reduce line speeds in these plants to ensure workers can maintain social distancing and stay safe on the job.  

“This bill is a critical step to reining in the dangerously fast line speeds at so many meatpacking plants and will put the safety of workers and our country’s food supply first. Congress must pass this vital legislation immediately.”  

Congressional Leaders for Worker Safety  

Keeping frontline workers safe at meatpacking plants, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a key priority for the members of Congress introducing this legislation.  

“The meat and poultry processing industry has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with infection hotspots appearing in plants across the country,” said U.S. Representative Marcia Fudge (OH-11).  “Fast line speeds make the dangerous conditions workers at these plants already face even worse by packing them closer together and placing them at greater risk of contracting or spreading the virus.  Waiving limits on processing speeds also threatens the safety of our food supply.  As COVID-19 cases continue to soar at processing plants, we must prioritize worker, food, and animal safety over increased production and profits.”  

“For years, USDA has been complicit in the consolidation of the meat processing industry by gifting linespeed waivers to corporate meatpackers at the expense of worker safety, the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers, and the safety of the nation’s meat supply,” said U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (CT-03). “The high-profile COVID-19 outbreaks at meat packing plants have raised questions of the safety of the conditions inside these plants. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, these workers experienced injuries at a higher rate than comparable occupations. And now, faster linespeeds make it impossible for workers to practice social distancing and to comply with safety guidelines. That is why I am proud to join the leadership shown by Rep. Fudge in introducing this legislation that will reign in these reckless linespeed waivers for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.” 

“It is imperative that we ensure worker safety on slaughter lines,” said U.S. Representative Bennie G. Thompson (MS-02). “Safety can not be exchanged for high production. During this unprecedented time of COVID-19, we should take the necessary precautions to ensure employees are sare while working at meat and  poultry establishments.” 

Background 

UFCW recently announced that in the first 100 days of COVID-19, there have already been 238 worker deaths and nearly 29,000 workers infected or exposed among its members in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, healthcare facilities, and other essential businesses. This includes 93 worker deaths in the meatpacking and food processing industries. 

UFCW announced its support today for the Safe Line Speeds in COVID-19 Act to ensure safe line speed limits in meatpacking plants.  

The USDA has repeatedly attempted to remove line speed limits in pork and poultry plants, increasing the risk to both workers and food safety.   

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the country’s food supply chain, the USDA has continued to grant waivers that allow plants to run faster and endanger more workers.  

In addition to calling on Congress for action today, UFCW is continuing to pursue litigation to maintain line speed limits in pork plants nationwide and prevent companies from further jeopardizing the health and safety of the nation’s food supply chain with dangerous increases to production speeds.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

UFCW: Congress Must Put Workers First As Corporate Bankruptcies Driven by COVID-19 Threaten Safety of Retirement Benefits for Millions of Americans

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Calls on Lawmakers to Pass Bill to Safeguard Benefits of Workers on Frontlines of COVID-19 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million workers in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and other essential businesses, announced its support for the Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s 16 million retail workers have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic from day one, helping ensure that our country’s families have the food and supplies they need. With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on our economy and driving many retailers out of business, we must not forget these brave workers who have kept our communities running during the crisis.

“This bill protects Americans who lose their jobs when businesses declare bankruptcy, ensuring that these workers receive the pay and benefits they have earned and making clear that these workers should never have to take a back seat to CEO payouts or Wall Street profits. With this pandemic forcing thousands of Americans out of jobs every week, we must put workers and families first.”

Background:

UFCW recently announced that in the first 100 days of COVID-19, there have already been 238 worker deaths and nearly 29,000 workers infected or exposed among its members in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, healthcare facilities, and other essential businesses.

UFCW announced its support today for the Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act to safeguard the retirement security of the 1.3 million workers it represents. The bill is a response to the increase in employer bankruptcies resulting from the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 and aims to protect the employee retirement benefits endangered by these bankruptcies.

The Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act will protect workers by:

  • Improving Recoveries for Employees and Retirees
  • Reducing Employees’ and Retirees’ Losses
  • Restricting Excessive Executive Compensation Programs

Click here to read full background on the legislation.   

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Confirms Growing COVID-19 Impact on Frontline Workers

New Numbers Released: Over last 100 Days – 238 Frontline Worker Deaths from COVID-19, Nearly 29,000 Workers Infected or Exposed in Food and Healthcare Sectors 

With Growing Spread of COVID-19, UFCW Announces Key Priorities:

 $15 Per Hour Pay for Frontline Workers and Reinstating Hazard Pay, 

Enforcing Public Mask Mandate in Every County and State, and 

National Public Registry Requiring Companies with 1,000 Employees to Report COVID-19 Worker Exposure and Deaths

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million workers, held a national press conference highlighting the impact and growing danger of COVID-19 on our nation’s frontline workers. During the call, the UFCW announced that over the last 100 days, 238 UFCW frontline workers have died from COVID-19 and nearly 29,000 workers have been infected or exposed to this killer virus.

During the press call, UFCW International President Marc Perrone also announced three new initiatives in response to the growing increase of COVID-19 cases in states across the country. The initiatives to address the impact on frontline workers include: (1) Reinstating hazard pay and establishing a $15 per hour wage for all frontline workers, (2) Establishing a public mask mandate in all 50 states, and (3) Creating a new national public registry to track COVID-19 infections in frontline workers which would require companies with more than 1,000 employees to submit monthly reports on their worker deaths, infections, and exposure.

The following are excerpt of President Perrone’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:

“With our country now 100 days into the COVID-19 pandemic, America’s frontline workers still face many of the same dangers they faced on day one. In grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and healthcare facilities, our country’s frontline workers are still getting sick and dying. It’s high time for America’s CEOs and elected leaders to pull their heads out of the sand and take the strong action needed to protect these brave workers and the communities they serve.

“American workers simply cannot survive with the current patchwork of safety measures taken by only a fraction of companies and states with millions still unprotected and vulnerable. We need real enforcement of the highest safety standards. Even worse, some of our nation’s biggest companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger are still keeping us in the dark and refusing to tell the American people how many of their workers have died or been exposed to COVID-19. Simply put, it is impossible to hold the government or corporate America accountable when they hide the true impact of this outbreak.

“The failure of the Trump Administration to enforce clear OSHA standards is giving giant corporations like Amazon and Walmart a free pass to ignore their responsibility to keep their workers safe and this is exactly why so many frontline workers have become exposed to this virus. There is something fundamentally wrong when the White House and Congress are spending more time trying to let companies off the hook for the health of their workers. Americans deserve better.”

Background:

In today’s report on the first 100 days of COVID-19, UFCW released the following numbers based on internal estimates from UFCW local unions across the country.

UFCW represents 1.3 million workers and among those UFCW members, 238 workers have died, and in the grocery, meatpacking, food processing, and healthcare industries, nearly 29,000 workers have been infected or exposed to COVID-19.

In grocery stores across the country, there have been at least 82 worker deaths and 11,507 workers infected or exposed. April experienced the highest single-month total for grocery worker deaths with 46 supermarket employees killed by COVID-19. May saw the grocery industry’s biggest overall spike in COVID-19 cases with 5,901 new grocery workers infected or exposed.

At meatpacking plants nationwide, there have been at least 65 worker deaths and 14,214 workers infected or exposed. April saw the biggest spike in new COVID-19 meatpacking cases with 8,632 workers infected or exposed. May was the deadliest for the industry with 38 worker deaths last month alone.

In food processing facilities, there have been at least 28 worker deaths and 3,474 workers infected or exposed. April was the deadliest month for the industry with 19 food processing worker deaths, and was also the month with the biggest spike in cases with 2,107 workers infected or exposed.

Healthcare facilities have been the frontlines from the beginning. UFCW represents over 60,000 healthcare workers across the country and has confirmed there have been at least 21 worker deaths with 11,478 workers infected or exposed. April was the deadliest month with 13 worker deaths and May saw the biggest spike in new cases with 8,554 workers infected or exposed.

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The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org

 

 

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