Grocery workers, their unions are stepping up to challenge

UFCW, Teamsters are fighting to protect members’ workplace safety, ensure access to the paid leave


UPDATE (March 18, 2020) — UFCW 21, 367 and 1439 and Teamsters 38 announced today they have reached an understanding with Fred Meyer/QFC, similar to the one already reached with Safeway/Albertsons (described below), to better support and protect grocery store workers and shoppers amid the coronavirus crisis.

(March 18, 2020) — Grocery workers across Washington state are on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak, working long and stressful hours to meet increased demand. With each shift, they are potentially exposing themselves to the coronavirus in one of the last places that large groups of people are allowed to congregate in Washington state. And by all accounts, they are stepping up to this challenge and performing admirably in Washington and throughout the country.


But as you might imagine, grocery workers have serious concerns about their health and safety — and their families’ well-being — amid this crisis. So their unions are stepping up to address those concerns with the grocery companies and the government.

This weekend, UFCW 21, 367 and 1439 and Teamsters 38 reached an understanding with Safeway/Albertsons to better support and protect grocery store workers and shoppers in Washington state amid the coronavirus crisis. This resolution includes:

► More flexibility for schedules to accommodate childcare.

► Joint hiring hall to allow for more workers to get work in the stores.

► Up to two-weeks of pay for workers diagnosed with COVID-19 or workers required to self-quarantine, before needing to access sick leave and other contractual paid leave.

► Agreed to jointly work with state and federal government to treat grocery store workers as first responders, and set up a childcare fund for grocery store workers.

► Expanded use of paid sick leave to cover childcare needs.

► Agreed to further discussions of ways to meet workers’ childcare needs.

► Ensure workers do not lose eligibility for medical coverage or lose vacation accrual while out on sick leave.

► Temporarily allow the employer to bring in extra outside help to make sure we are able to serve our communities during this crisis—provided bargaining unit employees are offered hours first, including overtime.

► As always, any work done in the meat cutter classification will only be performed by individuals qualified and licensed (where necessary) to perform such work.

The unions are advocating for similar protections for their members working for other grocery chains.

“UFCW 21 is working with state and local government to advocate for workplace safety and ensure access to the paid leave and benefits people need to safely stay home if they are in a high-risk group, sick, or under quarantine,” reads a posting on the union’s website. “We are also working to ensure necessary supports, such as child care, for health care, pharmacy and grocery store workers who remain at work on the front lines of the crisis, providing essential services to our community.”

Elsewhere around the country, non-union grocery and retail workers for major national chains are reporting that they don’t even have access to paid sick leave. Not only does that put those workers and their families at risk, it also puts the public at risk and exacerbates the public health crisis we now face.

It’s never been more clear that unions make a huge difference in their members’ lives, both by negotiating for fair wages and benefits, and also by fighting for safety and health at work.

Experience the power of joining together with your co-workers and negotiating a fair return for your hard work. Contact a union organizer today!

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