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

UFCW Press Releases -

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

 

 

Investing in Public Post-Secondary The Foundation for BC’s COVID-19 Recovery

Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC -

Jun 25, 2020 FPSE News

INVESTING IN PUBLIC POST-SECONDARY: THE FOUNDATION FOR BC'S COVID-19 RECOVERY
A submission to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.

THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THE POST-SECONDARY SECTOR
When COVID-19 threatened our society, we united in following public health directives out of deep concern and compassion for our fellow citizens. The public has proven that there is broad and deep support for actions, and spending, to take care of each other. We must maintain this commitment to public spending to support people through the crisis.

The only consensus that exists regarding the province’s economic future is that much is unknown, but given the national and international negative impact, it is expected there will be a recession or depression, and that the recovery will be led by the public sector. While hardly a positive economic outlook, it is helpful to recognize this reality as a starting point in building the budget to bring clarity to the goals of the provincial budget: will it accept additional hardship for those at the bottom, or will it actively seek to reduce inequality by directing public funding towards those measures proved to long-term societal, economic, and individual benefit? 

Given that a downturn is expected, spending and services should be aligned to meet the anticipated needs of citizens. History shows that during an economic downturn, people will enter or return to some level of post-secondary education. This is why it will be so important to maintain the capacity of the post-secondary system. A cut by austerity or unchanged public spending is still a cut – with large reliance on private funds expected to evaporate, public spending will be needed to make up the shortfall.

ACCESS FOR STUDENTS
Past funding programs like Institutional Based Training and Capacity Expansion along with their low tuition levels serve as positive examples of increased funding directly correlating with increased access for students. The successes of these initiatives stem from principles that should be used to guide funding for post-secondary institutions in their COVID-19 response:

Continuity | At a minimum, the current program profiles of post-secondary offerings need to be maintained while also supporting new needs. Institutions that are not able to balance their 2020-21 budgets should, with proper planning, rationales, and approvals be allowed to proceed without cuts to balance their budgets. If cuts are deemed necessary, they should be made as far away from the key service area of post-secondary – education and direct education support – as possible.

Accessibility | Adequate faculty and staff levels need to be present across the province – geographic access to quality post-secondary training across the province is just as important now as it was when the college system was created. Emergency remote learning delivery during COVID-19 is justified, but it is by definition tied to our emergency circumstances. When face to face learning can safely resume, students will need access to institutions close to home with educators in their classrooms, and the ability to interact with their classmates. This will not be possible if rural institutions’ educator workforce is devastated by cuts motivated by fewer students.

Accountability | Accountability is best ensured through directed funding ‘envelopes’ with specific requirements, such as maintaining as many educators in the workforce as possible.

Affordability | Widespread loss of individual and family income adds financial barriers to those who most need access to education and skills training. Support BCFS calls for financial assistance for students.

RECOMMENDATIONS
Recommendations for BC Budget 2021

1) That the provincial government join FPSE and employers in establishing a formal tri-partite mechanism to ensure that continual consultation and inclusion are the hallmarks of BC’s approach to the COVID-19 crisis and continue post-crisis.

2) That public investment to public post-secondary institutions be increased to offset reduced revenue from international students and fund the post-secondary educational access BC needs. Current geographic accessibility and course offerings must be maintained or increased. It is important that BC’s post-secondary education system not be degraded by any reduction in international student tuition revenue. FPSE supports calling on the federal government to provide this funding through increased social transfers to BC as part of Canada’s economic recovery plan. Further options to maintain the post-secondary system:

  1. Allow institutions to run deficits
  2. Allow institutions to access surplus accounts to ensure continued funding of services, courses, and therefore faculty and staff employment.
  3. Pause, post-pone or cancel some capital projects so funds can be moved or kept within operational account
  4. Allow access to institutional surpluses to maintain educator workforce
  5. Wage and hiring freeze on administrators at all institution, and for those laying off faculty or staff that administrative cuts be at least proportionate (to the educator: administrator ratio).
  6. During COVID-19 pandemic, instruct institutions to demonstrate preferential consideration for educators laid off or not re-hired by institutions within the BC post-secondary system (using Article 2 of the Common Agreement pertaining to the laid off worker registry).
  7. Businesses and employers have a role in supporting a strong public post-secondary system as part of BC’s economic recovery. Businesses who need their employees to learn new skills should be encouraged to enter into Contract Training with a public post-secondary institution .

3) That the provincial government call on the federal government to:

  1. Endorse the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ (CAUT) call to allow public institutions to access the wage replacement subsidy to;
  2. prioritize funding and support for private post-secondary institutions with unionized instructors, as this is the most efficient metric by which to measure fair and equitable treatment of instructors and students; AND
  3. establish a federal tri-partite committee to determine sector-wide practices regarding international education with compliance with collective agreements mandated at the outset.

CONCLUSION

The impacts of COVID-19 have been profound and felt across society – although those who were already vulnerable disproportionately suffered the negative economic and social consequences of the pandemic. The economic disruption has decreased government revenue at the same time as there has been increased demand for public services. It is in this context that the 2021 BC Budget is being prepared.

Rather than asking if an economic downturn is inevitable and trying to avoid it through cuts and austerity, FPSE is calling for bold, significant investment in the people of BC and the services they need to weather whatever lies ahead. We need to lay the foundation for a strong economic recovery that will last for generations.

Investment in post-secondary education must be part of this foundation, just as it must be part of the economic recovery. During an economic downturn, the need for post-secondary increases as people look for work or need to upgrade their training. When the education they need is affordable and accessible, the individual, the post-secondary system, and society all benefit from a population that grows healthier, more financially secure, and more democratically engaged, as it becomes more educated.

Investing in post-secondary education gives more people the opportunity to succeed. This is exactly the investment we need at this moment. This is how we can build an economic recovery for working people.

If you would like to read the full submission in it's entirety, please click on the link below:

Attachments FPSE-BC-Budget-20200625.pdf

Unifor condemns WestJet outsourcing scheme

Unifor -

June 25, 2020

CALGARY—Unifor is disturbed by WestJet’s plans that will eliminate more than 3,000 jobs in an outsourcing scheme revealed earlier this week. 

“It is disgraceful and downright un-Canadian that WestJet would punish the workers who made this historic Western Canadian start-up so successful. This is pandemic capitalism at its worst,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “I find it disturbing that WestJet is using the pandemic to justify its outsourcing scheme as so many of the workers who will lose their jobs were in the process of signing union cards with Unifor.” 

WestJet’s plans were announced by its parent company, Onex Corporation, one of the largest private equity firms in Canada. At the time Onex acquired WestJet in 2019, Unifor warned workers and the public of its reputation as a predatory takeover specialist with a long history of devastating cost-cutting and restructuring.

“Up until the time Onex’s takeover, WestJet employees were considered owners,” said Kellie Scanlan, Unifor’s Director of Organizing. “But after this week’s announcement, it’s clear that at WestJet, management does not want workers to have a voice.”

Unifor has a proven record of securing collective bargaining language that specifically protects airline workers from outsourcing schemes. While Unifor has been working hard to organize workers at WestJet it has faced an aggressive management-led campaign to undermine card signing efforts. In recent weeks, Unifor organizers have noted a substantial increase in the number of WestJet workers reaching out to sign union cards.

“This outsourcing scheme at WestJet shows what happens when workers do not have a union to protect them,” added Dias. “We will continue to fight for frontline WestJet workers and stand with them during this difficult time.”

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.

To arrange an interview via FaceTime or Skype, please contact Unifor Communications Director Natalie Clancy at Natalie.Clancy@unifor.org 416-707-5794 (cell).

Unifor releases Road Map for a Fair, Inclusive and Resilient Economic Recovery

Unifor -

June 24, 2020

OTTAWA – Unifor calls on governments to #BuildBackBetter and reveal a detailed plan to rebuild the economy in a virtual news conference live on Facebook.  

“Tomorrow’s economy cannot look like the one that we left behind, where essential workers could barely get by on low wages, could not access sick pay, and where the social safety net failed them,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Eventually this crisis will end and we want to ensure that a more fair, inclusive, and resilient economy takes shape on the other side.”

Built on the principles of economic justice, the new recovery plan is based on consultation with rank-and-file members and includes dozens of recommendations targeting all levels of government.

The plan organizes policy recommendations into five themes:

  • Build an income security system that is accessible
  • Build sustainable green jobs and decarbonization
  • Build critical physical and social infrastructure
  • Rebuild domestic industrial capacity
  • Set strong, enforceable conditions on corporate support packages

“The steps that governments take in the coming months and years will define workers’ well-being and progress for a generation,” said Renaud Gagné, Unifor Quebec Director. “It is vital that we get it right, and rebuild the economy not to what it once was, but to an economy that meets people’s needs no matter the crisis.”

Visit buildbackbetter.unifor.org to read the recommendations and download the Road Map for a Fair, Inclusive and Resilient Economic Recovery.

Watch the digital media conference on www.fb.com/uniforcanada to see Jerry Dias and Unifor members from across the country present the vision.

For further information, contact Sarah McCue, Unifor National Communications Representative at 416-458-3307 (cell) or sarah.mccue@unifor.org.

For French interviews, please contact Unifor Quebec Communications Representative, Véronique Figliuzzi at Veronique.Figliuzzi@unifor.org or 514-212-6003.

Ford government defeats amendment to remove profits from home care

Rank and File - latest news -

By Zaid Noorsumar The Ontario PC government of Premier Doug Ford has rejected the Official Opposition’s call to remove profits from the province’s home care sector.  During the standing committee meetings for Bill 175 on Monday and Tuesday, the government struck down all of the amendments proposed by the opposition parties. The NDP proposed 19 Continue readingFord government defeats amendment to remove profits from home care

Privatization, two-tiered home care, and the burden on women

Rank and File - latest news -

By Zaid Noorsumar When she first began working as a home and community care nurse twenty years ago, Anne* had a regular 40-hours a week schedule. Today, Anne is working between 12 and 14-hour days at least three times a week and every other weekend.  “I see 12 to 14 patients a day and am Continue readingPrivatization, two-tiered home care, and the burden on women

Canada must oppose any reimposition of unfair aluminum tariffs

Unifor -

June 23, 2020

TORONTO—Unifor is calling on the federal government to strenuously oppose any reimposition of punitive tariffs on Canadian aluminum exports to the United States by President Donald Trump.

“I urge you, Prime Minister, to reject any concessionary demands the U.S. requests of Canada on this matter,” wrote Unifor National President Jerry Dias in a letter sent today to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “We must not allow these bullying tactics to succeed. I urge you to stand strong in the face of this misinformation campaign and reject any quotas that would disrupt the Canadian aluminum industry once again and lead to unnecessary layoffs.”

There are reports that the United States is planning to re-impose a 10% tariff on Canadian aluminum unless Canada accepts strict export quotas on primary aluminum. This follows a request from the American Primary Aluminum Association (APAA) to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Secretary Wilbur Ross to repeal Canada’s exemption to the Section 232 tariffs that occurred one-year ago in May 2019.

Canadian aluminum was subject to national security tariffs imposed by the Trump Administration between May 2018 and May 2019 when Unifor launched a campaign against the unfair tariffs.

“Section 232 tariffs were bogus the first time and it’s nothing short of an outrage for the APAA or the Trump administration to pretend once again that Canadian aluminum is somehow a threat to U.S. national security,” said Dias. “We simply cannot allow the tantrums of small-scale American producers to threaten Canadian jobs and the communities that rely on them a second time.”

The APAA claims that primary aluminum exports from Canada have “surged” since the lifting of U.S. tariffs, which breaches an agreement struck between the parties. The “surge” claim is entirely arbitrary, and based on trade flows over a short period. The APAA’s claim also fails to account for headwinds facing the industry, including the economic downswing caused by COVID-19 along with a dramatic rise in non-Canadian foreign imports from places like China and Russia over the past decade.

The reported policy move comes even after the main U.S. industry group, The Aluminum Association, stated in a May 2020 letter to Lighthizer that “even if every U.S. aluminum smelter was operating at full capacity, aluminum manufacturers would still require a mix of domestic and imported primary aluminum as well as secondary production to meet the demands of U.S. manufacturers and consumers for aluminum products.”

“What the APAA neglects to mention is that the U.S. aluminum industry has a domestic capacity problem that is leading American manufacturers to look elsewhere for their aluminum,” wrote Dias. Dias also warned Trudeau that strong reciprocal measures may be warranted and must be considered should the U.S. act against Canada’s aluminum sector.

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

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