Union, senators call for reinstated hazard pay

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union is calling for the reinstatement of hazard pay for millions of America’s essential frontline workers because of COVID-19.

Marc Perrone, president of the union, says the national estimates of union worker deaths and infections continue to grow.

“The UFCW has lost over 278 of our members including 93 grocery workers,” he says. “In addition, nearly 30,000 of our workers have become sick or exposed to COVID-19. The concern is very real.”

He says the union is asking for hazard pay as well as increased testing, additional personal protective equipment, public mandate for masks, mask enforcement in stores, and medical grade air filtration systems in retail operations and packing plants.  

Senators Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren are leading a group of Senate Democrats in writing a letter urging 15 major grocery stores CEOS to restore pandemic pay and implement CDC recommendations.

Brown says the pandemic isn’t going away and hazard pay for frontline workers is just as important now as it was in April.

“These workers’ skills are keeping our economy going and their paychecks should reflect that,” he says. “It comes back to the dignity of work, if you love this country you fight for the people that make it work.”

Warren says ensuring that the next stimulus package includes an essential workers bill of rights remains a top priority.

“That would include robust premium pay for all essential workers, but it also includes strong enforceable health and safety protections, and an OSHA emergency temporary standard,” she says. “It would include universal paid sick leave, paid family and medical leave, it would give healthcare security, childcare along with other necessary rights and benefits to people on the front lines.”

The UFCW represents 1.3 million professionals in meatpacking, food processing, grocery stores, retail shops, and other industries.

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