The head of a union has asked the CEOs of 63 U.S. retail and grocery companies to take specific measures to protect their customers and workers amid the two-year-old COVID-19 pandemic.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which has 1.3 million members in the U.S. and Canada, sent letters to such heavyweights as Albertsons Companies, Amazon.com Inc., CVS Health, The Kroger Co. and Whole Foods Market Inc.
“As you know, throughout this difficult period, the threat of COVID-19 variants has persisted and evolved even as many of America’s largest food and retail companies have relaxed their safety measures,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone wrote in Dec. 9 letters to the business leaders.
“Now, with the Delta variant driving a dangerous winter surge of COVID-19 cases in 39 states and new variants like Omicron further raising fears about public safety, we believe it is critical for our nation’s largest retail and food employers, including Walmart, Amazon, Safeway and Kroger, to take immediate steps to protect essential workers and members of the public during this holiday season,” he added.
Perrone urged the CEOs to promote wearing of masks for all their customers and make available to their employees personal protective equipment while they are on the job.
Perrone also requested food and retail companies re-establish social distancing and support vaccinations and booster shots for workers via onsite vaccine clinics and paid sick leave.
Finally, he called for business leaders to increase worker pay.
“The exploding spike in food prices is impacting all workers and has added an additional burden to many essential workers—especially those with families,” Perrone wrote. “The reality is that the threat of COVID and the new variant is clearly contributing to historic inflation, fueling customer frustrations, and is making the job essential workers do in this pandemic even more difficult.”
Perrone cautioned against letting the pandemic worsen before implementing his requested measures.
“Based on our discussions with virus experts, these actions must be taken now to help reduce the risk of a worsening pandemic that will cost lives,” he stated.
Since the pandemic’s inception, at least 497 UFCW essential workers have died, 35,945 have been exposed and 68,891 have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Perrone's letter.