Union representing grocery workers calls for customer limits at all grocery stores to inhibit spread of virus

LANDOVER, MD (April 6, 2020) – United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400, which represents thousands of union members working predominantly in grocery stores and food processing facilities, applauded the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department for their decision to place limits on the number of customers permitted in grocery stores in Kanawha County to inhibit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“Our members working in grocery stores are on the frontlines of this crisis,” explained UFCW Local 400 President Mark Federici. “They are exposed to hundreds of customers per day and thousands per week. For the safety of our members and customers in our stores, it is imperative that we take drastic measures now to inhibit the spread of this deadly disease.”

“We applaud the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department for implementing limits on the number of customers in a store,” he added. “But we must go further. To protect our members on the frontlines, we are calling on every locality to restrict the number of customers in a store to 10 people per 10,000 square feet, with no more than 50 customers in a store at the same time. We must act now to save lives. We cannot afford to wait and we cannot allow grocery stores to become dangerous vectors for disease. For everyone’s safety, we must implement customer limits at every store immediately.”


  • The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department has directed businesses to limit access to two individuals for every 1,000 square feet of public space.
  • UFCW Local 400 has called on the governors of Maryland, Virginia & West Virginia, as well as Mayor Bowser in the District of Columbia, to implement similar measures. The union has called for a limit of 10 customers per 10,000 square feet and no more than 50 customers in a store at the same time.
  • The governors of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, and Rhode Island have recently ordered limits on the number of customers permitted inside retail stores at the same time.
  • UFCW launched an online action targeting Governor Justice and surrounding governors to designate grocery store, pharmacy, and food processing workers as “first responders.” The designation would open up access to free testing, treatment and personal protective equipment to workers on the frontlines of the crisis. The action has already generated hundreds of messages to the governors of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia as well as the mayor of Washington, D.C. Minnesota, Michigan, and Vermont have already 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.

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 six-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
  • Requiring all employees and customers to wear masks while shopping


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.