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UFCW: Amazon and Whole Foods Must Take Immediate Action to Protect Workers From Coronavirus

UFCW Press Releases -

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Raises Alarm After Report of Six New Whole Foods Worker Infections 

Latest Whole Foods Infections Follow Amazon Firing Workers Speaking Out About Safety Hazards 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union which represents 1.3 million workers, condemned Amazon for firing workers speaking out about dangerous working conditions as coronavirus worker infections continue to increase with six more Whole Foods worker infections just reported. Coronavirus has infected workers in at least 74 Amazon warehouses and delivery facilities.  

UFCW International President Marc Perrone issued the following statement: 

“This is now a matter of life and death. Amazon and Whole Foods must take immediate action to keep their workers safe from the rapidly growing coronavirus outbreak. With six more Whole Foods worker infections reported just reported, and countless Amazon workers exposed across the country, it is stunning that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is more focused on silencing brave whistleblowers than actually taking the action needed to protect these grocery and warehouse workers.  

“Our nation’s elected leaders are being rightfully held responsible, so why is Jeff Bezos not being held responsible for firing workers who spoke about Amazon’s safety failures? Bezos needs to tell Americans why he is more focused on firing essential workers than doing what is necessary to keep every Whole Foods and Amazon worker safe.  

“Now, more than ever, corporations like Amazon must be held responsible for failing to keep its frontline workers from being exposed to the coronavirus outbreak.” 

Background

In the last three weeks, Amazon has fired or dismissed nearly half a dozen workers raising concerns about coronavirus safety issues. In Washington, D.C., six more Whole Foods worker infections were just reported. Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that across industry employers, at least 41 grocery workers have died from coronavirus. 

UFCW has been a leading voice calling for greater accountability of Amazon and its worker mistreatment. Earlier this month, 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 at the same Staten Island fulfillment center.

In February 2020, UFCW called Amazon’s new cashierless grocery store “a clear and present danger to millions of good jobs.” In July 2019, UFCW announced its opposition to a $700 million effort by Amazon to push its own workers out of jobs as it relentlessly automates its warehouse operations. And in May 2019, UFCW called out Amazon for using robots to replace thousands of its workers across the country.

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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

MAHCP President’s Update April 15, 2020

Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals -

This week we’ve already seen a number of new developments affecting Allied Health Professionals and I want to provide you with more information regarding what we know and what we don’t yet know.

Yesterday I shared that the Provincial Government has finally agreed to provide paid administrative leave for members instructed to stay home from work due to potential workplace exposure to COVID-19. This is a partial but significant victory, and it represents a reversal from the Premier’s public stance last week. Our members helped make that happen by speaking out.

We’ve already received a number of great questions regarding the paid leave announcement. Unfortunately, we still don’t have any details from the Employer about how broadly this new policy will apply or how you can access it if you’ve been affected. We are pressing the Employer for those details and will keep you informed as soon as we learn more. In the meantime, we know it will be retroactive to March 1, 2020, so please continue to document and follow any necessary reporting procedures.

Premier Pallister also announced that his government will be seeking labour cost savings by introducing reduced work weeks in the public service. It has been reported that public servants may be required to work as little as two days per week if they have a full-time position, and then access Employment Insurance benefits for missed shifts. This announcement raises a number of questions and we, together with other public-sector unions, are in the process of seeking answers.

Here’s a quick run-down of what we know so far:

  • MAHCP attended a conference call between government officials and public sector unions on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Premier Pallister was not on the call despite media reports that he was. In this meeting it was repeated that health care workers are not going to be subject to this reduced work week plan, rather they are looking at other ‘non-essential’ public-sector workers to pitch in. Despite being pressed for a definition of what is considered a health care worker and what ‘essential’ means, there was no clarity provided.
  • MAHCP represents a large number of members who work in community settings for organizations who are funded by grants and other sources that we remain concerned about in terms of funding cuts and staffing reductions. We continue to seek clarity on the government’s plan. If the Provincial Government tries to deem those services ‘non-essential,’ they will have a fight on their hands.
  • There is no indication that the Federal Government at this point would even approve an Employment Insurance claim related to reduced work weeks. That uncertainty calls the viability of this proposed policy into question.
  • Our colleagues from other Unions are rightfully concerned that we are finding ourselves in a position where public service employees are essentially being pitted against one another.
  • There was no acknowledgement on the call about the impact on individual members who are being affected in myriad different ways. The focus was completely on financial implications and potential cost savings.

MAHCP continues to fight for each of you every day. We continue to fight for appropriate PPE to be available for every member. We continue to fight for considerations related to members who have child care issues.

We have seen positive results on some fronts and I’d like to summarize a few of them:

  • Early on, patient screening was spotty. Members of the public were able to enter facilities without restriction and were being provided ‘elective’ diagnostic testing. Our members concerns with us and we ensured that screening restrictions and policies around diagnostics were being followed. Evenutally all ‘elective’ tests were cancelled or postponed.
  • We successfully negotiated an updated memorandum of agreement around redeployment. We forced the Employer to remove terms such as “may” or “where reasonable” to ensure some compensation for members should they be redeployed during this pandemic.
  • MAHCP has continuously advocated for appropriate PPE for our members. Two weeks ago, Employers finally released a “universal” protocol dictating PPE for every patient interaction. This was a limited success, but it was a step forward by establishing clear guidelines and acknowledging the need to protect front-line providers. MAHCP continues to demand that every member be protected to the highest available standard. We know that our members remain at risk because of PPE shortages or rationing and we continue that fight.
  • Yesterday’s announcement about paid leave for Employer-mandated self-isolation due to workplace exposure was a significant step forward for MAHCP and our members, as I’ve described above. It shows that when we raise our voices together, we can make them listen.

There remains an enormous amount of work to do and we are working every single day to ensure that you are able to be the heroes that I know you are. I firmly believe that Manitobans are understanding exactly how valuable you are and I want to take this moment to thank every single member for your dedication and your willingness to share stories with me and your labour relations officers.

I understand the feelings that some of you are sharing. We have been without a collective agreement for two, and in some cases, three years. We have fought wage freezes. We have fought and endured cuts, closures and consolidations. And now we are in the midst of a pandemic. With all of that, you continue to do each of your professions proud.

Thank you for standing with us and fighting alongside us. We will continue moving forward together through this crisis and beyond.

In solidarity,

Bob Moroz, MAHCP President

 

Unifor says transit lay-offs unnecessary and reckless

Unifor -

VANCOUVER—Translink’s threats to cut to transit operator staffing levels, and therefore transit service, is an irresponsible move that would do more harm than good during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Unifor.

“Tens of thousands of essential services workers rely on transit to get to work,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Cutting transit service would make life even more difficult for working COVID-19 heroes, and ultimately the people they have been dutifully serving.”

The lay-off threats from Translink has Unifor concerned about more crowding, making social distancing on transit more difficult and hinder the commutes of essential services workers

B.C. Transit has not announced any plans to reduce service levels.

Unifor is calling on all levels of government to come together to maintain transit service levels to keep passengers safe and to keep the struggling Metro Vancouver economy moving during an already challenging time.

“Our elected leaders must sort it out and get it done. All jurisdictions have a role to play to maintain regional transit levels,” said Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor Western Regional Director. “Translink shouldn’t treat the public like guinea pigs in a budget experiment.”

McGarrigle also noted that in many lower wage essential service workplaces such as retail and cleaning, women and workers of colour are over-represented.

The union also says that pass-ups resulting from COVID-19 precautions that reduce bus capacity are already leading to social distancing violations and abuse of transit operators. 

“When you’ve been passed up two or three times, you’re going to fight your way on to the next bus, no matter the recommended distancing requirements,” said Balbir Mann, Unifor Local 111 president, representing transit operators. “Many passengers are taking out their frustration on transit operators.”

Information about the union’s response to the pandemic, as well as resources for members can be found at unifor.org/COVID19.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

For media inquiries please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at ian.boyko@unifor.org or 778-903-6549 (cell). 

Ford government encouraging the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes

Unifor -

April 16, 2020

TORONTO— A revised directive from the Ford government has employers forcing long-term care workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 but who aren’t yet showing symptoms to return to work, putting healthy workers and residents at great risk.

"The directive states that staff who have tested positive and have symptom resolution and are deemed critical may return to work ‘under isolation’”, said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Sending what we know are potentially infectious people back into the most high-risk and vulnerable institutions demonstrates a lack of care that really borders on heartless. Someone must explain to me how a front-line caregiver can work under isolation.”

After years of sounding the alarm about the severe deficiencies, shortages and issues in long-term care homes, and multiple awareness campaigns and meetings with the provincial government, it cannot be said that Premier Ford didn’t know long-term care homes would not be able to handle a pandemic.

“We’ve been pounding on Doug Ford’s door for years saying the same thing – fix long-term care! – and now a real challenge has brought all these problems into the public eye in a very sad and devastating way,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to the National President and nurse. “Again, these COVID heroes are left to fend for themselves and again, I’m pleading with the Ford government to do what’s best for these workers and their residents.”

Unifor will continue to provide updates as information becomes available at unifor.org/COVID19.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy, including more than 30,000 health care workers in hospitals, long-term care, emergency services, and community and social services. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

For media inquiries or to arrange a Skype or FaceTime interview with Jerry Dias, contact Kathleen O’Keefe, Unifor National Communications Representative at 416-896-3303 (cell) or kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org

You Have Been Heard on Paid Leave, Now Let’s Keep Pushing!

Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals -

Thanks to all of you who have added your voice to our fight and written to MAHCP and/or your elected officials in recent weeks, Premier Pallister finally announced the following today:

“The Manitoba government will now compensate health-care workers who are required to self-isolate for 14 days due to possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace… The Manitoba government will provide health-care staff paid administrative leave for the full 14-day period of asymptomatic self-isolation. Should a worker become symptomatic during self-isolation, the individual will be compensated by sick leave benefits, pursuant to their collective agreement.”

The full government press release is available here: https://news.gov.mb.ca/news/index.html?item=47520&posted=2020-04-14

We are still waiting for all the details, but it’s clear they are starting to listen to the concerns MAHCP and our members have been raising for weeks. It wasn’t fair to make you finance your own self-isolation with sick time or vacation when you are willing and able to work. They’re finally stepping up and doing the right thing by providing paid leave for those who are otherwise healthy but have to self-isolate. We have confirmed this new policy will apply retroactively back to March 1, 2020.

This is the beginning of our fight, not the end. MAHCP continues to push the government to provide presumptive workers compensation coverage for any health care worker who contracts COVID-19. You’re at risk because of what you do – putting your own safety on the line to care for Manitobans. If you test positive for COVID-19, they should assume you got it at work and cover you accordingly. We know how WCB normally operates, and that’s not good enough. The burden of proof shouldn’t be on you for COVID-19 exposure during this unprecedented crisis.

We have not forgotten about the Employer’s responsibility to provide appropriate PPE. We haven’t forgotten about members who have child-care issues. We haven’t forgotten about you.

I want to thank you again for joining MAHCP in this fight. Please stay tuned for further updates and ways you can get involved, and do continue to keep us informed on what you’re experiencing on the front line. We’re in this for you, but we can’t do it without you.

In solidarity,

Bob Moroz, MAHCP President

MAHCP President’s Update April 9, 2020

Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals -

 

As we carry on into the new normal, I want to keep you updated on MAHCP’s activities. All MAHCP members are facing increasingly difficult circumstances as this pandemic evolves in Manitoba, and I want you to know your union has your back.

We continue to hear about shortages of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and inconsistencies in safety protocols and social distancing at sites across the province. MAHCP’s position remains clear: you should be protected to the highest possible standard when on the job. We know the Employer is still working toward their goal of “universal” PPE for all patient contact, and we’ll continue pushing and holding them accountable.

As you know, MAHCP has demanded COVID-related paid leave for affected employees, and we have also demanded automatic workers compensation (WCB) coverage for any health care professional who tests positive. Other health care unions are joining us in those demands. You’re in harm’s way on the job and they should make sure you’re covered if you miss work due to this crisis.

So far, the Provincial Government has refused to step up and meet these basic, fair and reasonable demands. Instead, you’re expected to use your own sick time, vacation or other banked time if you need to self-isolate. They’re nickel and diming you when you’re needed most, this after more than two years of frozen wages, cuts and closures that have left us short-staffed, stretched and under-supported. Their behaviour is shameful, but we’ll continue fighting arm in arm with other health care unions for the support and basic protections you deserve.

I want to take a moment to thank all of you who have written to MAHCP to share your stories. Many of you have shared heart-wrenching stories about how this pandemic is affecting your lives, your child care, your work situations. I simply haven’t been able to respond to every email, but please know that I read them all and I appreciate hearing from you. Every story helps fuel our resolve to fight on your behalf, and in many cases it allows us to raise specific and urgent issues with your Employer.

I also want to thank those of you who have written to your elected officials – every voice helps push Government to do the right thing. If you have the time, please visit our website and take action: https://mahcp.ca/take-action-and-make-your-voice-heard/. And feel free to send a copy to info@mahcp.ca.

Please continue to keep us informed. Together we will get through this current crisis and emerge stronger than before.

In solidarity,

Bob Moroz, MAHCP President

Sonoco paper mill closure an unnecessary loss to Quinte West community, economy

Unifor -

April 15, 2020

TORONTO – Unifor members at Sonoco paper mill in Quinte West, Ontario, have been told their mill will close in June of this year due to ‘market conditions’ despite the parent company making a massive $83 million investment in its South Carolina operation.

“The market for the kind of cardboard products made at this mill have never been in higher demand, so I refuse to believe this move is anything but an attempt to line shareholders’ pockets,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The timing could also not be worse as so many families are already struggling with job loss due to COVID-19. This is horrible news for this community and for the forestry sector in Ontario.”

Unifor represents 81 workers at the Sonoco paper mill. The community of Quinte West has a long history as a forestry town with operations in the sector dating back to 1880.

“This is a hard time to process this news,” said Scott Doherty, Executive Assistant to the National President. “When so many jobs are lost due to very real economic restrictions, to have an essential employer close up shop is just incredibly disappointing.”

Unifor has asked Premier Doug Ford to establish a provincial strategy for the forestry sector to support rural communities and take advantage of the province’s mills and plentiful natural resources.

“Without a strategy to retain key employers and support forestry communities, we could unfortunately see more jobs lost as corporations see Ontario as a less appealing place to operate,” said Dias.

Unifor is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy, including 23,000 in the forestry sector. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

For media inquiries, please contact Unifor Atlantic Communications representative Shelley Amyotte: shelley.amyotte@unifor.org or 902-717-7491 (cell)

Expanded CERB access a positive step but more needed for essential workers

Unifor -

April 15, 2020

TORONTO– Unifor calls expanded access to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) a positive step but says that additional support measures are needed for essential workers.

“This increased access will provide benefit to tens of thousands of Unifor members, currently excluded from the CERB,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias.

Today the government announced an extension of the CERB program to include seasonal workers, those with expiring Employment Insurance claims as well as individuals still receiving modest employment income.

The government also announced a wage top up for essential workers, which will likely include health care workers and supermarket workers that make less than $2,500 a month. Unifor maintains that the government’s move to provide additional wage enhancements for workers is a good start, but falls far short on having any real impact on front-line COVID workers.

“These workers continue to go to work each day despite the risk to themselves and to their families,” said Dias. “The sad reality is that while these workers are now recognized as essential, many barely earn a living wage and this will offer them no wage enhancement whatsoever.”

Unifor has been calling on individual employers to provide wage enhancements for essential workers in multiple sectors including health and retail. Last month the union achieved agreements with Rexall, Loblaw, Metro and Sobeys to provide a $2 dollar wage premium and enhanced health and safety measures to its retail members. Only about fifteen individual agreements have been reached in other critical sectors, including at specific long-term care homes.  

“On behalf of these workers I have stressed the need for fair compensation in conversations with the Prime Minister’s Office,” Dias said. “We need to broaden this much-needed wage premium to make it easier for all front-line workers to continue to deliver the crucial services that we rely on.”

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector and represents 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

Information about the union’s response to the pandemic, as well as resources for members can be found at unifor.org/COVID19

For media inquiries or to arrange a Skype or FaceTime interview with Jerry Dias please contact Unifor Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe at kathleen.okeefe@unifor.org or 416-896-3303 (cell).

 

Kroger, America’s Largest Grocer, and the UFCW, America’s Largest Food and Retail Union, Issue Urgent Call for Nation’s Elected Leaders to Designate Grocery Workers as First Responders

UFCW Press Releases -

CINCINNATI AND WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, The Kroger Co., America’s largest supermarket, and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union, issued a joint statement calling on federal and state government to take swift action to designate associates at grocery stores as “extended first responders” or “emergency personnel.” Today’s statement follows both Kroger’s and the UFCW’s direct advocacy on this topic with elected officials over the last five weeks.

Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen and UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“Since the onset of this pandemic, Kroger family of companies associates, who are also members of the UFCW, have been working tirelessly to make sure that millions of American families have the fresh food and products they need. As all Americans are now witnessing – grocery workers play a critical role in our communities and they must be protected.

“Working together, Kroger and the UFCW have already taken significant steps to keep Kroger associates safe and reward them for their incredible sacrifices throughout this ongoing crisis. The truth is more must be done and it must be done now.

“Given the significant daily risk these workers face, we are calling on all of our federal and state leaders to take immediate action. Specifically, we are requesting our nation’s leaders to assign a temporary designation of first responder or emergency personnel status for all grocery workers. Make no mistake, this designation is absolutely critical as it will ensure these frontline workers have priority access to personal protection equipment like masks and gloves.

“This urgent call for temporary first responder or emergency personnel status is not just about protecting grocery store workers; it is also about protecting the customers they serve and our nation’s food supply in general.

“We urge our national and statewide elected leaders to act now and protect these essential workers.”

About The Kroger Co.

At The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), we are Fresh for Everyone and dedicated to our Purpose: To Feed the Human Spirit®. We are, across our family of companies, nearly half a million associates who serve over 11 million customers daily through a seamless shopping experience under a variety of banner names. We are committed to creating #ZeroHungerZeroWaste communities by 2025. To learn more about us, visit our newsroom and investor relations site.

About the UFCW

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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Grocery workers want better pay, not “heroes” label

Rank and File - latest news -

Letter from a grocery store worker By Achilles* Ever since it broke out, the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world. It disrupted and pushed lives of many into a state of uncertainty. But for essential workers, the show must go on. I work at one of the grocery stores in Kingston, Ontario, owned by a Continue readingGrocery workers want better pay, not “heroes” label

National #ShopSmart Campaign to Keep Grocery Workers Safe From Coronavirus & Protect Nation’s Food Supply Announced Today

UFCW Press Releases -

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Also Releases New Poll Results of Grocery & Food Worker Top Concerns & Fears

New Initiative Launched Amid Increase in Food & Grocery Workers Exposed to Coronavirus 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union which represents over 900,000 grocery workers, launched a new national initiative to help protect America’s food and grocery workers. The new national campaign, entitled #ShopSmart, will target American grocery shoppers and is in response to the growing number of food and grocery workers who are becoming exposed to the coronavirus and the direct threat this growing outbreak poses to our nation’s food supply.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone said:”The coronavirus pandemic represents the greatest health and safety crisis that America’s grocery and food workers have ever faced. Since the beginning of the outbreak, these workers have been on the front lines of this terrible pandemic. While tens of millions of Americans were told to work from home for their safety, grocery store and food workers have never had that option. More must be done to protect them and our food supply now.”

The new nationwide public safety effort, which includes a new #ShopSmart ad campaign with digital and TV commercials, is being announced as the UFCW estimates that 30 UFCW members have died from COVID-19, and nearly 3,000 UFCW food and grocery workers have been directly impacted by COVID-19.

The estimated number of deaths and exposed workers is based on reports from UFCW local unions and includes those who have tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, are awaiting test results, have been hospitalized, or are symptomatic.

“Grocery workers are deeply concerned. The fact is that this pandemic represents a clear and present danger to our nation’s food supply and all grocery store workers. The “Shop Smart” campaign will help save lives by making clear that all members of the public can take key safety steps to help protect these workers and each other from the coronavirus,” Perrone added.

To highlight the growing concern of food and grocery workers, the UFCW also released results from a survey of more than 5,000 grocery and food workers (sample of 5,000 UFCW members/1 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence level).

The key survey results, which are included below, highlight the real fear and concern of food and grocery workers, and the need to take a more dramatic series of action to protect workers.

  • Customer Support for Workers
    • 29 percent said customers treated them somewhat poorly or very poorly.
  • Top Customer Safety Issues:
    • 85 percent said customers are not practicing social distancing.
    • 81 percent said customers are hoarding supplies or groceries.
    • 62 percent said customers are blaming employees for shortages
    • 43 percent reported instances of customers shouting at employees
  • Safety Priorities for Grocery Stores:
    • When asked what grocery stores should do to improve customer safety and treatment of workers:
      • 72 percent supported a limit on the number of customers in stores
      • 49 percent supported stores banning unruly customers
      • 41 percent supported stores hiring more security
      • 26 percent supported stores hiring more workers to meet demand
      • 23 percent supported advertisements with customer safety tips

For more information about UFCW’s customer campaign, please visit http://www.ufcw.org/coronavirus/customers/.

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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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