The latest statewide order ignores public health officials and puts frontline workers at greater risk
CHARLESTON, WV (April 17, 2020) – United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400, which represent thousands of union workers in grocery stores and food processing facilities, denounced the new order issued by the Bureau for Public Health for failing to provide adequate guidelines for social distancing in West Virginia’s grocery stores and retail locations.
“This new rule overrides previous guidance provided by public health officials and wrongfully prioritizes business interests over the safety and health of West Virginians,” said UFCW Local 400 President Mark Federici. “It is shameful to see the Justice administration bow to pressure from the West Virginia Retailers Association and go against medical advice intended to save lives.”
The new order was derided by the Kanawha County Commission and City of Charleston for “adding 50% more foot traffic in stores” and putting “customers and frontline employees” at greater risk. The Commissioners said the new rules were a “result of a push by lobbyist for the WV Retailers Association and OMEGA.”
“We should not be taking medical advice from corporate lobbyists,” Federici added. “This is a life and death situation and we must prioritize the health and safety of workers on the frontlines of this crisis over corporate interests.”
The union has previously called for a limit of no more than ten customers per 10,000 square feet and a maximum of 50 customers in a store at the same time.
UFCW launched an online action targeting governors of all states as well as the mayor of Washington, D.C. to designate grocery store, pharmacy, and food processing workers as “first responders.” The action has already generated hundreds of messages to Governor Justice as well as governors in Maryland and Virginia and Mayor Bowser in Washington, D.C.
UFCW has called on every employer as well as policymakers at the local, state and federal level to institute a suite of new policies to protect workers and customers, including:
- Declaring grocery store workers “first responders” or emergency personnel so they have access to the benefits and protections others in those categories receive, especially access to testing, treatment, and personal protective equipment (Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, and Vermont have already done this)
- Limiting the number of customers in a store to 10 people per 10,000 square feet and a maximum of 50 people in a store at a given time to be enforced by additional security staff (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, and Rhode Island have recently placed limits on customers in stores, as has Kanawha County, WV)
- Mandating an additional 14 paid sick days to be used without the need to a positive COVID-19 test or quarantine order
- Mandating paid leave of 12 weeks for those in high risk categories such as those over 60, immune-compromised individuals, and those who need to care for sick loved ones
- Access to free childcare (Maryland has already done this)
- Increased security at all stores, both through store security and increased police patrols
- Banning any discipline relating to time and attendance
- Mandatory wiping down of grocery carts, self-scan screens, and credit card touch screens after each use
- Public address announcements at regular intervals reminding people to maintain a 6-foot distance from employees and other customers
- Requiring a six-foot distance be kept from cashiers and other customers in line at check stands
- Requiring that only every other check stand and self scan be open
- Requiring shorter store hours or 7am-9pm to allow for additional cleaning, stocking, and rest time
- Mandating that employees be allowed to wear masks and gloves even if they are not sick
- Requiring employers to provide adequate amounts of masks, gloves, cleaning supplies, and hand sanitizer
- Mandating hazard pay with a minimum of at least $2 an hour and double time for any overtime hours worked
- Requiring stores to supply masks to all employees and customers to wear while in the store
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 represents 35,000 members working in the retail food, health care, retail department store, food processing, service and other industries in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.