In response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, the UFCW is calling on Congress and state governors to designate our members in the grocery, retail and food processing sectors as first responders and mandate that these workers have at least two weeks of paid leave.
In a letter to Local Presidents, UFCW International President Marc Perrone said:
Keeping our members healthy and safe on the job is our first priority, and paid leave is essential to achieving that goal. Our members in grocery, retail, and food processing are working tirelessly every day to keep our communities calm and ensure families have the food and supplies they need.
It is long past time for Congress and business leaders to step up to ensure every worker has access to paid leave. But partisan gridlock in Washington and inaction from business leaders has made it clear that we must continue to make our voices heard and pressure leaders at both the federal and state level to act.
Today, I am asking each of you to call on your state’s governor and members of Congress to recognize the essential work that our members are doing on the front lines of this outbreak by designating them as first responders. With this designation, we are also asking elected leaders to mandate that each of these workers be provided with at least two weeks of paid leave. This will ensure that our members can continue to serve their communities without having to choose between their health and their paycheck.
On March 15, Perrone condemned Congress for passing a coronavirus relief bill that fails to provide real relief to millions of American workers in the grocery, retail, and food processing industries.
Perrone’s statement reads as follows:
“We are in the middle of a national crisis, and America’s grocery, retail, and food processing workers are on the front lines. These workers must be protected. It is unacceptable that Congress is proposing a bill that fails to cover 80 percent of the workforce. Even worse, the bill’s paid leave protections were gutted as a result of pressure from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents giant corporations like Amazon and Walmart.
“Our country’s grocery, retail, and food processing workers are working tirelessly during this outbreak to help keep calm and ensure families get the food and supplies they need. We need these workers to stay healthy more than ever before, but this flawed legislation will force them to choose between their health and work. In the middle of a pandemic, such poor policy making is unacceptable and outrageous. Both parties must put people and public health first.
“We are urging Republicans and Democrats to work together to fix this broken bill and pass real protections, including two week paid sick leave, immediately.”
On March 11, the UFCW called on President Trump and members of Congress to develop and implement policies that address the economic impact of the new coronavirus on America’s workforce and ensure that workers – salaried and hourly – do not have to choose between their health and making ends meet during a global pandemic.
Top policy priorities the UFCW is calling on elected leaders to consider as part of any package to address the economic impact of the coronavirus include:
- At least two weeks of paid sick leave for all workers;
- Extension of unemployment benefits for workers temporarily laid off or whose work hours have been disrupted;
- Protection against unfair termination or discrimination for those suspected of being exposed to the coronavirus.
In the March 11 letter to President Trump and elected leaders, Perrone said the following:
Nearly 80 million American workers – or 59 percent of the entire U.S. workforce – are hourly employees who only get paid for the hours they work. As the financial impact of the coronavirus is felt across every community, these hard-working men and women are on the front lines.
I am urging each of our nation’s elected leaders to develop immediate policies that ensure that workers – salaried and hourly – do not have to choose between work and their health. These policies should not only protect workers against financial loss (from loss of hours or job loss), but should further ensure that workers seek out immediate medical attention if they feel sick or believe they have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Now, more than ever, it is time that we all focus on what matters most – protecting our families, our communities, and this nation.
You can read the entire letter here.