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UFCW calls for a national mask mandate

With explosion of highly transmissible COVID Delta Variant, UFCW says frontline workers must be protected


WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 30, 2021) — The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), the union for 1.3 million food and retail workers, welcomed this week’s recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that both vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans resume wearing masks indoors in high-transmission states and if they have vulnerable people in their household such as young children and those who are immuno-compromised. But the UFCW says more must be done to protect frontline workers amid a new explosion of COVID infections from the Delta Variant, which is 1,000 times more transmissible than earlier versions of the virus.

“The new CDC mask policy is a critical step that sounds the alarm about the explosion in COVID Delta cases and makes clear that wearing masks indoors is critical to stopping the spread of this deadly virus,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “But the reality is that the CDC recommendation does not go far enough. A national mask mandate is the only way we can finally take control of this virus and every retail CEO in the country must recognize that now is the time for all of us to mask up so we can keep our economy open and communities safe.”

A new report shows that COVID cases in the U.S. have more than doubled in the past two weeks and nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties now have elevated COVID transmission. UFCW raised serious concerns about the CDC mask guidance in May which led to states and retailers ending mask mandates for vaccinated individuals, despite COVID risks millions of American workers still face on the frontlines as the pandemic continues.

“With COVID cases continuing to surge, essential workers have been forced to play vaccination police because of the confusing patchwork of state and local mask policies,” Perrone said. “Urgent action is needed from states and retailers to strengthen COVID safety enforcement so the burden doesn’t fall on the shoulders or essential workers already stretched thin. As America’s largest union for essential retail and grocery workers, UFCW is calling on the CDC as well as elected and business leaders to do much more to strengthen COVID safety measures and remove the barriers to vaccine access leaving so many essential workers unprotected as we confront this new surge. American lives are on the line and failure to act is not an option.”

UFCW has been a leading national voice for essential workers in grocery, retail, meatpacking, and many other frontline industries during the COVID-19 pandemic. This past spring, UFCW raised serious concerns about mask policy changes by national health officials and retailers across the country.

UFCW confirmed that among the union’s members nationwide, there have already been at least:

  • 482 frontline worker deaths and at least 96,600 frontline workers infected or exposed
  • 197 grocery worker deaths and at least 43,300 grocery workers infected or exposed
  • 132 meatpacking worker deaths and 22,400 meatpacking workers infected or exposed
  • 67 food processing worker deaths and 13,100 food processing workers infected or exposed

UFCW International is the largest private sector union in the United States. UFCW International represents 1.3 million professionals and their families in healthcare, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. Our members serve our communities in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at

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