WASHINGTON, DC (April 3, 2020) – The following statement from UFCW Local 400 is in response to Mayor Bowser’s comments today regarding designating grocery workers as first responders during this crisis:

We understand that there is a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), and we have not been asking, nor are we demanding now, that our members skip over healthcare workers and other traditional first responders for access to that valuable protection. 

“However, a shortage of PPE should not be an excuse to delay designating grocery store workers as first responders now so that they can have access to District-provided testing sites, which are currently restricted to healthcare workers, first responders, and high-risk residents. Grocery workers on the frontlines of this crisis need this testing now and there is no reason to delay.

“There are other actions the mayor can take immediately to curb the spread of this disease in our stores. The governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, and Rhode Island have recently put in place limits on the number of customers allowed in stores to help enforce social distancing. Mayor Bowser needs to act now to put a policy in place in the District of no more than 10 customers per 10,000 square feet with a maximum of 50 customers in a store at a time.

“These actions will not just protect our members, but also everyone in the community who continues to need access to food in a safe and healthy location. The time to act is now, now now!”


  • Minnesota, Michigan, and Vermont have designated grocery workers as “first responders,” similar to health care workers and other essential personnel. Maryland has designated grocery workers as “essential,” which provides them access to free childcare but falls short of providing much-needed access to the testing, treatment, and protective equipment to keep the public safe.
  • At least one worker at Giant Food in Columbia Heights has tested positive for COVID-19, as have workers at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods in the area, and many more cases are expected in the next few days.
  • Free, dedicated testing sites have been opened for first responders, healthcare workers, and residents over 65, but grocery workers on the frontlines are not able to access these sites.
  • UFCW launched an online action targeting Mayor Bowser and surrounding governors to designate grocery store, pharmacy, and food processing workers as “first responders.” The action has already generated hundreds of messages to Mayor Bowser as well as the governors of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia.

UFCW Local 400 has called on every employer to institute a suite of new policies to protect workers and customers, including:

  • 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
  • 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
  • Limiting the number of customers in a store, as the governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, and Rhode Island have recently ordered
  • Public address announcements at regular intervals reminding people to maintain a 6-foot distance from employees and other customers
  • Requiring a 6-foot distance be kept from cashiers and other customers in line at check stands
  • Requiring shorter store hours 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 about the current minimum wage and double time for any overtime hours worked


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.