Union praises move as a ‘first step’ but calls for more specific measures to be taken and for grocery workers to be designated ‘first responders’ to access free testing for COVID-19
WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 9, 2020) – UFCW Local 400, the union representing thousands of grocery workers at Giant and Safeway stores in the District, applauded Mayor Muriel Bowser for her decision to issue an executive order mandating additional measures to protect the safety and health of grocery workers and customers in D.C. stores.
The executive order takes effect today and includes many provisions the union has advocated for, including limiting the number of customers in stores at the same time, providing masks and gloves to employees, and regular disinfecting procedures including disinfecting self checkouts, carts, and baskets every hour. The full text of the mayor’s executive order can be read here.
Mark Federici, President of UFCW Local 400, issued the following statement regarding the executive order:
“We applaud the mayor for taking this first step, but more must be done. This is not a time for broad, vague measures. We need specific, enforceable mandates to ensure everyone’s safety. Currently, our members in grocery stores are exposed to hundreds of customers per day and thousands per week. We must immediately enforce strict limits of no more than 10 people at a time per 10,000 square feet, and no more than 50 customers in a single store at a given time. We cannot allow grocery stores to become vectors for disease.
“But it’s not enough to limit customers in stores. We must also make testing available to every grocery worker so they can make an informed choice before coming to work. Anyone who tests positive in one of our stores may take up to 14 days of paid time off, but without adequate testing, there is no way to know who is infectious until it’s too late. We are calling on Mayor Bowser and every state governor to declare all grocery store, pharmacy, and food processing workers as ‘first responders’ so they may also be eligible to get free coverage for all coronavirus treatments and tests, as well as the treatment and personal protective equipment they need to stay safe on the job while they continue to serve our communities.”
- One Giant worker from a store in Largo, Md. has passed away after being diagnosed with COVID-19. At least one worker at Giant Food at a store in the Columbia Heights neighborhood has tested positive for the disease, as have workers at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods in the area, and many more cases are expected in the next few days.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Local 400 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 (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.