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UFCW Releases Statement on Workers Memorial Day & Announces Worker Deaths from Coronavirus

America’s Largest Retail & Food Union Announces 72 Worker Deaths in Grocery, Retail, Meatpacking, and Other Industries; and Over 5,000 Workers Directly Impacted by Coronavirus During Outbreak

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union with 1.3 million members in grocery stores, pharmacies, meatpacking plants, and other essential businesses, released a new update on the growing number of frontline workers who have been exposed, sick, and died from COVID-19.

According to the UFCW’s internal reports, which were released on Workers Memorial Day, there have been at least 72 worker deaths and 5,322 workers directly impactedamong UFCW members. This covers grocery, retail, pharmacy, meatpacking, and other essential industries and those directly impacted include workers who tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, are awaiting test results, or have been hospitalized, and/or are symptomatic.

On Workers Memorial Day, UFCW is calling on America’s elected and corporate leaders, as well as American shoppers, to take immediate steps to protect these workers before more lives are lost.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s frontline workers in grocery stores, pharmacies, meatpacking plants, and many other essential businesses are putting their lives on the line every day to ensure families have the food and medicine they need to stay safe during this crisis. These workers never signed up to be first responders in an emergency, but that is exactly what they are now and they need protections immediately before more lives are needlessly lost.

“The human cost to America’s food, retail, and commercial workers is real and growing. From grocery stores to meatpacking plants, from senior care facilities to pharmacies, the impact on workers’ lives from this coronavirus is beyond tragic – and this crisis must be stopped before it gets worse.

“As we remember all of America’s brave frontline workers, across every industry, who have died from COVID-19, we are calling on all of our country’s leaders in the White House, in Congress, and states across the country to strengthen safety standards and take immediate action to protect the millions of workers who are keeping our communities strong throughout the crisis. American lives are on the line. We cannot wait any longer. We need action now.”


The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 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 www.ufcw.org.

UFCW: Tyson and All Meatpacking Companies Must Act Immediately to Protect American Workers & Food Supply

Union Representing 250,000 Meatpacking Workers Calls for Industry to Strengthen Safety and Transparency, Support First Responder Status for These Workers on Frontlines

Union Announces New Numbers on Increase in Meatpacking Worker Deaths and Plant Closures During Coronavirus Outbreak  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest meatpacking union, called on Tyson and all companies in the industry to make good on the promise of the Tyson New York Times advertisement with immediate action to protect these frontline workers across the country. UFCW is calling on the meatpacking industry to strengthen transparency on plant safety and immediately join the union in calling for these workers to be designated as first responders during the outbreak.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s meatpacking workers and our nation’s food supply are in greater danger every day that companies and leaders fail to act during this outbreak. It is clear that our food supply chain is threatened, and that is why our country’s elected and corporate leaders must act now.

“Tyson and every company across this vital industry, must immediately join with UFCW in calling for federal and state elected leaders to designate these frontline workers as first responders. Temporary first responder status ensures these workers have priority access to the COVID-19 testing and protective equipment they need to continue doing these essential jobs. Our federal leaders must enforce clear guidelines to ensure every employer lives up to the high safety standards these workers deserve and the American people expect.

“Meatpacking companies must increase transparency around their safety efforts to ensure that meatpacking workers, elected leaders, and the communities they serve know exactly what steps they are taking to keep workers safe and our food supply secure. Simply put, given the nature of this COVID-19 crisis, words are not enough. American workers and families across the country cannot wait any longer. Our elected leaders and companies across the industry must act now.”


In the last week, UFCW sent a letter to Vice President Pence urgently calling for the White House Coronavirus Task Force to prioritize five safety actions targeted toward the meatpacking industry, including: (1) increased worker testing, (2) priority access to PPE, (3) halting line speed waivers, (4) mandating social distancing, and (5) isolating workers with symptoms or testing positive for COVID-19.

UFCW recently released new updates on the serious and deadly impact of the Covid-19 virus on meatpacking plants across the country, but those numbers have increased in recent days.

Today, new internal UFCW estimates have confirmed 20 worker deaths in meatpacking and food processing. In addition, at least 5,000 meatpacking workers and 1,500 food processing workers have been directly impacted by the virus. Those directly impacted include individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, missed work due to self-quarantine, are awaiting test results, or have been hospitalized, and/or are symptomatic.

UFCW announced today that new estimates show 22 meatpacking plants have closed – including union and non-union plants – at some point in the past two months. These closures have resulted in over 35,000 workers impacted and a 25 percent reduction in pork slaughter capacity as well as a 10 percent reduction in beef slaughter capacity.

The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 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 www.ufcw.org

#ShopSmart Campaign Urges Shoppers to Help Keep America’s Grocery Workers Safe & Grocery Stores Open

America’s Largest Food & Retail Union Runs Full-Page New York Times Ad Highlighting New Initiative Calling on Shoppers to Help Stop Spread of the Coronavirus by Shopping Smart

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), America’s largest food and retail union, highlighted its national safety initiative entitled, #ShopSmart, to help keep grocery stores open for all and to take three easy steps to keep grocery workers safe from the coronavirus.

As part of the #Shop Smart national safety initiative, the UFCW has launched a national media campaign that includes television ads running in eight cities and 21 media markets, a social media advertising effort, and a full-page advertisement in the New York Times that will emphasize the three steps America’s shoppers must take to help protect the more than one million grocery workers who are working tirelessly to protect our nation’s food supply.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“To keep our grocery workers safe and grocery stores open for all, it is essential that Americans #ShopSmart and take easy steps to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. All we are asking is that shoppers take these easy safety steps – beginning with always wearing a mask – to help protect these essential grocery workers and make sure that grocery stores continue to be open and a safe place to shop for all of our families. Working together, we can do this, but only if all Americans realize the power that each of us has to fight this virus.”

Today’s full-page advertisement in the New York Times follows the ongoing six-figure national #Shop Smart media campaign highlighted by a new PSA-style commercial that is airing nationally in 21 media markets across 8 states, including the major media markets of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington D.C.


The #Shop Smart New York Times ad can be viewed here, and the text is included below.


During this time of national crisis, over one million union and non-union grocery workers are working hard every single day to provide the food and groceries that America’s families depend on.

These are essential jobs performed by amazing men and women. These are good jobs that fulfill a critical public service.These vital grocery stores must stay open and they must be safe.

To help keep all grocery workers and customers safe, we’re asking every American who loves their local grocery store to take the following #ShopSmart Pledge.

  • Always wear a mask or face covering when shopping. If you don’t have a mask, learn how to make one at cdc.gov/coronavirus.
  • Respect social distancing at all times. Stay 6 feet apart from workers and other customers.
  • Discard used masks and gloves safely. Please don’t leave used masks or gloves in a shopping cart or anywhere else – throw them away in the trash.

By working together, we can make sure that our grocery stores remain a safe place to work and shop.

So, please, America… #ShopSmart

Let’s Work Together To Save Lives.

Text ShopSmart to 23396

Visit ufcw.org/shopsmart


The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 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 atwww.ufcw.org.

UFCW Calls on USDA to Take Five Immediate Actions to Protect Meatpacking Workers and America’s Food Supply During Coronavirus Outbreak

America’s Largest Food and Retail Union Urges USDA to Prioritize a Series of Critical Safety Actions, including Testing and Personal Protection Equipment for All Meatpacking and Food Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents more than 250,000 meatpacking and food processing workers across the country, sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) calling on Secretary Sonny Perdue to take a series of immediate actions to protect meatpacking workers and our nation’s food supply.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“America’s meatpacking workers have been on the frontline of the coronavirus pandemic from the beginning, working tirelessly to make sure families have the food they need during this crisis. These brave men and women are providing an essential service despite enormous risk to their own health and the health of their families. Every day, these workers are not only putting their lives on the line to protect our nation’s food supply, they continue to work in some of the most difficult conditions imaginable.

“The threat these workers face during this outbreak is real and their safety concerns must be addressed immediately. At least six of our own members in meatpacking facilities have tragically passed away and hundreds more have been impacted by this ongoing pandemic. All across the country, we are witnessing meatpacking facilities having to close down, endangering our food supply at the worst possible moment.

“For the sake of these workers and our nation, it is clear that more must be done now. We are urgently calling on Secretary Perdue to adopt a series of safety actions and enact immediate guidelines to protect these essential workers which, in turn, will protect our communities and this nation’s food supply.”

Today’s UFCW letter calls on the USDA to take five immediate steps to protect meatpacking workers from the Coronavirus:

  • Prioritize Essential Workers for Testing: In order to ensure the health and safety of workers and protect the food supply, essential workers, such as those in meatpacking and food processing, must be prioritized for testing
  • Immediate Access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Though social and physical distancing are essential to preventing the spread of COVID-19, workers still need access to PPE, such as masks and gloves. The reality is that many of our meatpacking members lack the critical personal protection equipment necessary to do their job and reduce the risk of exposure. It is essential that the USDA, in conjunction with the White House Task force, prioritize all meatpacking and food workers for PPE to ensure the health and safety of these workers and to protect our food supply.
  • Immediate Halt On Line Speed Waivers: In the first two weeks of this month, the USDA’s Food and Safety Inspection Service approved 11 regulatory waivers for poultry plants to increase their maximum line speed. Rather than protect our food supply and workers, these waivers guarantee that workers are more crowded along a meatpacking line and more workers are put at risk of either catching or spreading the virus. It is critical that the USDA immediately cease granting any new waivers and suspend all existing waivers that allow plants to operate at faster speeds.
  • Mandate Social Distancing Where Possible: In order to responsibly protect workers and prevent spread of the disease, companies must enforce and practice six-foot social and physical distancing to the greatest extent possible, even if this means production slows down. Where distancing is not possible, companies should use plexiglass barriers to separate and protect workers, and/or ensure that all workers are provided with masks that can safely be used under these extreme conditions.
  • Isolate Workers Who Show Symptoms or Test Positive for COVID-19: In light of the largest outbreak to date at Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, it is critical to identify and isolate workers who have tested positive or who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19. These workers should be allowed to quarantine at home, with pay, per the recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

UFCW and JBS Announce Increased Pay and Enhanced Protective Equipment for Meatpacking Workers on Frontlines of Coronavirus Pandemic

America’s Largest Food and Retail Union Applauds Action by JBS, Largest U.S. Beef and Pork Processor, to Strengthen Worker Support and Protections 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union, which represents more than 250,000 meatpacking and food processing workers all across the country, announced an agreement with JBS — the leading processor of beef and pork in the United States — to increase wages for workers by $4 per hour and further strengthen safety measures in these plants.

The agreement between the UFCW and JBS is the union’s latest action to protect workers and strengthen our nation’s food supply during the coronavirus pandemic. This follows UFCW’s recent announcement of increased pay and protections for workers across these industries.

UFCW International President Marc Perrone released the following statement:

“In the face of this pandemic, the safety of JBS workers and all our meatpacking members is paramount. The UFCW has worked throughout this national health crisis to ensure that our union members are protected and millions of Americans continue to have access to the food they need.

“We applaud JBS and our UFCW Locals for coming to an agreement that recognizes the hard work and sacrifices of these brave men and women by giving them an additional $4 an hour and, more importantly, access to the personal protection equipment like masks, gloves, and face shields that they need to do their jobs safely.

“We hope JBS’s leadership sends a message to all other companies – union and non-union. Now, more than ever, it is critical that not only is our food supply protected, but that food processing and meatpacking workers are protected as they perform such an essential role during this health crisis.”


As part of this new agreement, JBS announced the following:

  • Beginning April 20 and lasting through May 30, JBS employees will receive an additional $4 an hour in pay increases. This will be in addition to the previously announced $600 bonus.
  • JBS employees will have access to enhanced personal protection equipment like masks, gloves, and face shields.
  • JBS will be installing plexiglass shields in areas of plants where social distancing is not possible.
  • Expanded cafeterias and breakrooms in JBS plants will allow workers to better practice social distancing.
  • Enhanced cleaning in common areas and plants will further strengthen safety measures.

The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries.

Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico. Learn more about the UFCW at www.ufcw.org.

Steward Joe Morton is mourned by Local 99 family

(March 21, 1969 – March 19, 2020)

The officers and staff of UFCW Local 99 join family members and co-workers in mourning the loss of Joseph Morton, a beloved union steward and food clerk at Safeway 249 in Page, Ariz. Joe passed away at the age of 50 due to complications from COVID-19. He was a loyal and active union member since 1993. As a Local 99 steward, he assisted in recruiting members for the Union. Joe recognized the power the Union could provide for workers and their families.

Outside of work, he loved to travel and attend baseball games. “Joe was a good man, he rarely missed a meeting, even driving from Page to Phoenix and back home in the same day just so he could go to work, to make sure he was fighting for his Union,” President Jim McLaughlin said. “His loss points to the tragic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthens our resolve to protect other workers from the same fate.”

Summary of UFCW Local 99 Telephone Town Hall with Membership

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

President Jim McLaughlin led a telephone town hall in which Local 99 members heard updates on how the union and employers are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Voicing his concern about the stresses endured by workers and their families, President McLaughlin described a wide range of mental health benefits that are available to the members.

“We’re about a month into this crisis and it seems like it could have been 10 years,” he said.

“We’re in a critical stage in the battle against COVID-19,” he continued. “Some of us already know people who have taken ill or even died.”

Noting that Local 99 lost a shop steward to the disease, he added: “Knowing someone in our union family who we lost to this virus makes it that much more difficult.”

‘Inspired by your remarkable bravery’

“I want to let you know how much I am personally inspired by your remarkable bravery and dedication during this emergency,” President McLaughlin said. “This is like nothing we have experienced in our lifetimes, but you are responding as true professionals in the critical industries we serve, across the board in our industries we serve.

“The work you are doing and putting your personal health and safety on the line so that others can take care of themselves and their families is tremendous.

“For that and more, you have my profound respect and appreciation,” he continued. “And you can be sure you have the respect and appreciation of the public at large. You can see it everywhere.”

Addressing the stress

Addressing the stresses being felt by members, he said:

“All of us are affected in one way or another. At home, our families endure boredom and isolation from friends and family we cherish — especially now, going into Easter weekend and Passover.

“While our families endure boredom, at work we endure the extreme opposite — stress that goes well beyond the anxieties we customarily experience on the job:

“We have shoppers in panic.”

“We have shoppers who strip the shelves bare faster than you can fill them.”

“We have shoppers who are rude and disrespectful.”

“We have shoppers who stand too close.”

“We also have shoppers who appreciate what we are doing and need us. We have always taken care of them and they need us to continue”

“In some cases, we lack personal protective equipment and other safety features — masks, gloves, disinfectants and barriers at check stands and other crucial points inside the store.

“Wherever we are — at home, at work and traveling in between — we worry:

  • What happens if I get sick? If a family member gets sick?
  • Who will look after my children when I’m at work? There are daycare issues across our membership.
  • How can I handle living with others, including family members or roommates, in close quarters for such long periods of time?
  • How can I deal with conflicts that inevitably arise with management and coworkers in this time of crisis and stress we’re all dealing with
  • Where can I get help with issues such as alcohol or drug addiction, marital and parenting issues, financial problems and more when my usual support systems are unavailable?

“These are things our members are struggling with everywhere, McLaughlin said. “The crisis we’re all experiencing can lead to depression, stress, anger and more.”

To answer that crisis, he said, “Our partner, HMC Healthworks, has put together a package in email form that includes videos, audio recordings to listen to in the car, and ways to contact HMC through telemedicine. This is help for you or any family member or children who are dependents.”

Check the website

McLaughlin reminded members participating in the telephone call about the wealth of information on the union’s website, UFCW99.com, as well as the union’s social media outlets.

“There you will find current information from reliable sources on how to protect yourself, your loved ones and others you encounter from the virus that causes COVID-19,” he said. “On our website you will also find links to resources provided by our union and government agencies.”

He said that Teladoc received a huge surge of members who were signing up online and getting involved, “and the people at Teladoc were overwhelmed.”

“Teladoc has assured us that a lot of that has been handled and response much quicker now,” McLaughlin said.

Questions and answers

Secretary-Treasurer Stan Chavira read a few questions the union frequently hears from members. President McLaughlin provided the answers.

What departments are getting the protective shields and why are they so small? They don’t really protect us at all.

We know the front end is getting shields up in most stores and pharmacies, and we are aware they are coming to Starbucks, too. We had hopes they would be bigger, but realistically the purpose of the shield is to give our members room to step back behind and have some protection that otherwise wouldn’t be there. We hope this is a short-term fix and there will be better long-term solutions.

Why is my company giving $2 appreciation pay and then cutting hours to seasoned workers and hiring new employees?

We’ve been talking to the companies about rewarding our members for this additional work on the front lines. Cutting hours hasn’t happened much, that we know of. For the most part, our members are working at least what they were a month ago and most likely more than that. Hiring additional employees is by design to help our members who are overwhelmed in the stores. Some members are working seven days a week, 60 hours in a week still. We would like to remind everyone that you have the ability to maximize your hours with the protection of the union contract.

Companies have offered to pay appreciation pay only until April 18. Why not to the end of April?

We are all having additional conversations about the appreciation pay. No one knows how long this crisis will last. Fry’s just started with the $2 premium pay and Safeway extended the date. We hope the other employers will extend as we progress through this crisis.

When will stores get masks and gloves? What about hand sanitizers?

The companies have assured us that they are coming. Stores are allowing us to wear our own personal masks and gloves while we work. Health care workers are getting the first available masks, but companies have assured us they will have supplies in their stores soon, as well as hand sanitizer. If not, let the store manager know and your union rep know. We are keeping track of that. Local 99 was able to procure a small number of masks and sanitizer and we hope to get that out to the stores next week. The masks we have are not medical grade, they’re cotton masks, but they will be out there to help with safety and we plan to get them to as many people as possible.

Do I have to get tested and test positive for COVID-19 in order to get paid for sick pay?

This depends on the company you work for. Safeway needs to have you tested or have your doctor take you off work. Fry’s policy is different. The bottom line is you need a doctor to take you off work to get sick pay. If you go off work on your own because you don’t feel safe or you feel the need to self-quarantine, both companies have been willing to make exceptions by using vacation time and other options. This is a great question for your union reps because they will know your personal situation and the company policy. I strongly urge you to give your rep a call.

Our stores need to limit customers. Will they close on Sunday?

These discussions you are having with reps and managers I’m also having with your companies. We are working with them to limit customers in the stores. It’s a great tool to help social distancing and have a safe workplace. No one expected this to happen and these concepts are things that haven’t been considered before. The shopping patterns have changed. Now the hours of 7-10 a.m. are swamped and later in afternoon some stores are a ghost town. With limiting customers and changing store hours, the end result will be better for all of us when people get more secure with product on shelves and return to more sensible shopping.

I heard an employee at my store tested positive. What do I do?

Talk to your store manager. If they hear something, they will alert you. If you believe you’ve been exposed, contact your physician and keep your store manager in the know. It’s critical that you include your store manager and doctor. Kroger announced they are checking employees and some have started checking vendors by taking temperatures. I’ve heard Safeway is taking temperatures of employees and vendors. I think we’ll see a lot more of that.

Number one rule in this: Don’t go to work sick. It’s that simple.


President McLaughlin concluded the call with a discussion of the federal stimulus package that was enacted last week. “We have been talking about the next stimulus package, which needs to include care for our members for the longer term after this is over,” he said. “We are working with congressional representatives so they understand what our priorities are and what the priorities of our members are.”

McLaughlin said he will lead another teleconference soon.

“In the meantime, if you have any questions or need assistance with the issues we discussed — or anything else relating to your jobs or your physical or mental health — please contact your union representative or call the union office,” he said. “Look for emails from your union and from HMC.

“While our physical offices are closed to walk-in requests, we are hard at work around the clock to serve you. All it takes is a phone call, an email, a text message or a visit to our website, UFCW99.com.

“We’re here to help you every step of the way. Call your union!”

At the end of the call, members were asked to leave a voicemail with any specific questions they have. Their union representatives will contact them with answers over next day or so.

How the CARES Act Helps UFCW Members

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R. 748), approved by Congress on March 27, 2020, includes a number of economic supports that will immediately help America’s workers.

Childcare Funding

$3.5 billion (a 50% increase) in funding for the Childcare Development Block Grant.

  • This money will be available to states to provide free childcare to “first responders” including grocery stores workers, drug store workers, health care workers, police, firefighters, and other workers deemed essential during the response to the coronavirus.

Extra Unemployment

The bill makes major changes to unemployment assistance, increasing the benefits and broadening who is eligible. States will still continue to pay unemployment to people who qualify. The benefit amount and amount of time people can collect the benefit varies state by state. The bill:

  • Adds $600 per week in benefits to everyone receiving UI;
  • Adds 13 weeks of additional benefits – which also applies to those currently receiving unemployment;
  • Includes benefits for those who traditionally were ineligible for unemployment (self-employed workers, independent contractors, those with limited work history, etc.)

Tax Returns

Some people have not filed their 2019 tax returns, but that’s OK. The filing deadline has been extended to July 15, 2020.

  • The IRS also says that people who have filed or plan to can still expect to receive a refund if they are owed one.

Insurance Coverage

The bill requires all private insurance plans to cover COVID-19 treatments and vaccine and makes all coronavirus tests free.

Additional information can be found by visiting the AFL-CIO’s State Resources website and the National Employment Law Project’s fact sheet.

For additional assistance, contact UFCW International Legislative and Political Action Department Deputy Legislative Director Rachel Lyons at 202-466-1504 or rlyons@ufcw.org.


The UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million professionals and their families in grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops, and other industries. Our members help put food on our nation’s tables and serve customers in all 50 states, Canada, and Puerto Rico. www.ufcw.org