Health & Fitness

Once viewed as essential, grocery workers now treated as “expendable,” union chief says

As soon as lauded as important and deserving of “hazard pay” for working through the coronavirus pandemic, grocery retailer staff are actually handled as “expendable,” in line with the top of the union that represents them.

“Ninety p.c of our members are extra afraid at this time than they have been 60 days in the past and 30 days in the past due to the brand new variants,” Marc Perrone, worldwide president of the United Meals and Industrial Employees, informed CBSN. 

Greater than 400 of the union’s grocery employee members have died of COVID-19, however the quantity is probably going larger, he added, noting the problem of monitoring deaths across the trade. 

Though grocery staff do not consider they need to be on the entrance of the road to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine, the union chief expressed outrage that solely 13 states prioritized them in any respect. “That is felony,” he mentioned. “We ought to have a look at the folks with probably the most publicity.” 

Perrone additionally mentioned grocery retailer house owners additionally ought to be sure that prospects put on face masks to maintain staff protected quite than go away it within the arms of staff to implement security insurance policies. “No sneakers, no shirt, no service — it could possibly be the identical with masks,” he mentioned.

Past calling for measures to guard grocery staff, the UFCW continues to advocate for laws mandating hazard pay for frontline staff. “When you tackle threat you need to be paid extra,” Perrone mentioned.

In Perrone’s view, Kroger’s latest choices to shut two shops in Lengthy Seashore, Calif., and two extra in Seattle, quite than quickly pay an additional $4 an hour, had extra to do with sending a message to staff than with slicing labor prices.

“Clearly Kroger might have stored these shops open,” he mentioned. The chain earned $3 billion in further income final 12 months, in contrast with 2019, principally as a result of pandemic, he famous. “They might have shared these income with these staff.”

Amid a nationwide debate on rising the federal minimal wage, Kroger wished to say that “When you attempt to legislate wages on this nation, we’re going to retaliate not directly,” Perrone mentioned.

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