Requiring customers and employees to wear masks is an important step, but access to testing is critical to ensuring frontline workers are safe on the job

LANDOVER, MD (April 15, 2020) – United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400, along with UFCW Local 27, which represent thousands of union workers in grocery stores and food processing facilities, applauded Governor Hogan today for issuing an order to require enhanced safety measures in retail establishments.

The order takes effect at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 18th and requires shoppers and employees in retail establishments to wear face masks and requires employers to make handwashing stations available to employees at least once every 30 minutes. The order also requires retailers to provide customers with the means to sanitize grocery carts and shopping baskets.

“We applaud Governor Hogan’s efforts to protect customers during this pandemic,” explained UFCW Local 27 President Jason Chorpenning. “However we feel it is unfair to require employees to wear face masks without requiring their employers to provide that protective equipment. We cannot shift yet another burden onto our workers on the frontlines of this crisis, who are already making daily sacrifices to keep Marylanders fed and provide other essential services.”

“This is another step in the right direction from Governor Hogan, but the most urgent need facing essential workers right now cannot continue to be ignored,” said UFCW Local 400 President Mark Federici. “We must make testing available to every worker on the frontlines immediately. Many of the retailers where we represent workers have provided paid sick leave to employees diagnosed with this disease, but testing remains unavailable until it’s too late. We must make widespread testing available so every worker can make an informed decision before coming to work and risking infecting their coworkers.”

“We are once again renewing our call on Governor Hogan to declare all grocery store, pharmacy, and food processing workers as ‘first responders’ so they may access free testing, treatment and protective equipment to stay safe on the job while they continue to serve our communities,” Federici said.

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 Northam as well as governors in Maryland and West 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.

United Food & Commercial Workers Local 27 represents more than 20,000 hard-working men and women in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia in grocery and retail, pharmacy, food processing, chemical processing, meatpacking, manufacturing, gaming, and public sectors.