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‘American Lives Are on the Line,’ Insists the UFCW

Urges the CDC to standardize safety protocols for grocery stores
Safeway UFCW worker
Photograph courtesy of UFCW Local 400

As the coronavirus-related death toll among grocery store employees continues to rise, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents 1.3 million workers in food and retail, has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to immediately issue mandatory guidance for grocery stores, pharmacies and food processing facilities to ensure that America’s front-line workers, as well as its food supply and prescription drugs, remain safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“American workers in grocery stores, pharmacies and food production are on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak to make sure families have the food and medicine they need. Every day, these brave workers are in close contact with sometimes thousands of customers, increasing their own risk of becoming infected with the virus,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone in a statement. 

“With the growing threat of the coronavirus, we are urging the CDC to issue new mandatory guidance that standardizes safety protocols for grocery stores, pharmacies, food processing and meatpacking facilities. Given the nature of the threat, the CDC must also provide new guidelines for physical distancing, enhanced cleaning, disinfecting and hygiene practices, personal protective equipment (PPE), and best practices for customers.

“It is absolutely critical that the CDC do more to help protect front-line workers who are at daily risk of becoming infected and even dying from the coronavirus. This is about not just saving the lives of these workers, but also about protecting the customers they serve. It is about protecting and maintaining the safety of our food supply. Keeping these workers safe will help keep America safe. The CDC must act now to issue strong new safety guidance. American lives are on the line. These workers’ lives are on the line. We cannot wait any longer.”

 To mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among workers and customers, the UFCW is calling for the CDC to issue detailed guidance on the following:

Grocery Stores and Pharmacies

In-Store Social DistancingLimit the number of consumers in a store at any given time to 20% to 30% of the store’s capacity and implement procedures to ensure that both employees and customers always remain at least 6 feet apart. Procedures should also include a marked “social distancing line” that begins 6 feet away from all checkout counters.

Improve Disinfecting, Sanitizing and Hygiene PracticesEmployees must be provided with sufficient break times to wash their hands as necessary or, at a minimum, every 30 minutes; sanitize frequent touchpoints, including point-of-sale terminals at registers throughout the day; provide disinfecting wipes for customers to disinfect carts, as well as at cash registers; designate employee(s) to ensure cleaning guidelines set by the CDC are followed; and provide set time to allow for stores to be properly sanitized and restocked.

Mandate Wearing of Personal Protective EquipmentMandate that all workers wear masks, gloves and any other personal protective equipment (PPE) available at the workplace; and mandate all employers to provide N95 masks, gloves and other PPE when it becomes available.

Call on All Americans to Shop Smarter by Practicing the Following Each Time They Visit a Grocery Store or PharmacyAlways wear a cloth face cover, ideally a mask, when inside the store; limit number of shoppers to one per family; practice social distancing throughout the store—not just at checkout stands; properly discard their own PPE in trash cans; and respect special shopping times for seniors.

Food Processing and Packing Plants

Improve Safety ConditionsMandate that all employers provide PPE and that workers wear PPE during the workday; ensure social distancing practices are implemented across the workplace at all timeswhere possible; when social distancing is not possible, PPE must be provided and used by all employees with no exceptions; make sure that safety practices are clearly posted throughout the facility and are in the necessary languages for employees to read; and provide PPEs for workers, including face masks.

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