Union urges food chain CEOs to step up mask wearing

NEW YORK (AP) – The nation’s largest food and retail union urges more than 60 retail and grocery chains to implement tougher measures to help protect hourly workers amid a wave of viral infections and the new omicron variant.

The Union of Food and Commercial Workers said in a letter to CEOs of Walmart, Kroger and others that they should reinstate social distancing protocols and urge customers to wear masks in all places. . It is also pushing chains to provide paid sick leave benefits to encourage workers to get vaccinated initially or to be reminded if a reaction occurs. The union, which has 1.3 million members, also said companies should further increase workers’ hourly wages to mitigate the impact of soaring prices for food and other commodities.

“Throughout this difficult time, the threat of COVID-19 variants has persisted and evolved even as many of America’s largest food and retail companies relaxed their security measures,” wrote UFCW President Marc Perrone in a letter provided by the union. “Now, with the delta variant resulting in a dangerous winter wave of COVID-19 cases in 39 states and new variants like omicron raising public safety concerns even more, we believe it is essential for the largest employers in the world. Our Nation’s Food and Retail … take immediate action to protect essential workers and members of the public during this holiday season. “

After a largely maskless summer, some companies have resumed pushing masks into their stores after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reversed the trend in late July and recommended masks for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in areas of the United States. higher transmission of the delta variant. But many business owners have always been lax about the requirement for masks and ditched social distancing protocols in their stores over fear of angering customers.

Paul Swanson, manager of Lunds and Byerlys grocery store in Wayzata, Minnesota, said his store relaxed mask rules for its customers after people got vaccinated this summer. Workers at the unionized channel are required to wear masks, he said. He’s worried about getting sick because the store is packed during the holiday season.

“It’s a little disheartening when you show up for work and my coworkers and I are wearing masks, but they aren’t,” he said.

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