Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Last night we held a telephone town hall where members had the opportunity to call in to hear President McLaughlin’s latest updates on how the COVID-19 virus is affecting our workplaces and our lives in general.

We are grateful so many members were able to call in. We communicated an enormous amount of information, so for those of you who were on the call, and for those of you who weren’t able to call, here is a summary of the topics we covered:

    • First, we are enormously proud of the work our members are doing in the stores. Your courage is commendable and we appreciate the personal sacrifices you are making.
    • Many of our union sisters and brothers in other industries aren’t as fortunate as most of our UFCW members in terms of having work, from those in IATSE to UNITE HERE and many others including some of our own. We urge those who have been laid off or have suffered a reduction in hours to contact union employers who are hiring right now.
    • We know these are probably the most stressful conditions you’ve ever experienced personally and professionally. We are working around the clock to do what we can to advocate for our members.
    • We are helping our communities maintain a sense of normalcy in these crazy times to help avoid a sense of panic.
  • Your union is here for you; you’re always our #1 priority, especially now.
  • It’s likely there will be a lot more questions than answers, so we ask for everyone’s patience in this unprecedented time.
  • Procedures and reactions to the virus are changing daily and solutions are fluid for everyone at all levels: your union, your companies, our state and the federal government.
  • There is no “one size fits all” approach to this crisis and we are handling each member’s question on a case by case basis;
  • So many people are affected by this… not only food workers. For example, our members at Precept Medical Products in Douglas, AZ, which is making personal protection equipment for hospitals as well as members at the Copper Queen Hospital in Southern Arizona.
  • Our efforts, politically, in the community and with the union companies, are not only on behalf of UFCW members; our voice is being heard on behalf of all workers throughout AZ and the country.
  • Your union office building is not open to the public but, staff and reps are working almost around the clock at your service. We urge you to call the office or your union rep with any questions you may have.
  • Individual face-to-face appointments can be arranged, when necessary.
  • The safety of our members is an ongoing concern and is constantly monitored.
    • Local 99 is in near daily contact with the supermarket companies and is also coordinating efforts with the UFCW International Union, which is dealing with this crisis across North America, to take the necessary steps to protect members on the front lines.
    • Some of the new policies include:
      • Increased “appreciation pay” for hourly employees; we have heard from a few members that they are not pleased with what the companies have offered. Be assured we are working with the companies, nationally and locally, to arrive at an improved, long-term solution;
      • Use of protective gear including masks and gloves;
      • Proposing ending the use of reusable bags;
      • Proposing restricting customers from bringing product from one part of a store to other areas within a store. For example, restricting bringing meat from the case to a meat cutter to further handle;
      • Implementation of new hours and regulations to enforce social distancing
      • Access to hand-washing stations and the ability to wash and sanitize more frequently while at work;
      • Workers are regularly reminded to carefully follow the precautions set forth by the CDC.
  • Local 99 is working with the companies to be sure any member who is affected by this virus, either through illness or quarantine, will receive pay, in addition to other sick leave benefits earned under the union contract.
  • There are differences in each company’s policies so members should contact their union reps to discuss specific circumstances as they arise.
  • Local 99 members have the best health care plans in the retail industry and access to some of the best doctors in Arizona.
  • In the cases of employees who are at high risk and do not feel they should work in the stores at this time, many union employers have agreed to permit these workers to go on leave. Members may be able to use unused vacation time earned under the contract.
  • Last week, the governor announced he is mobilizing efforts to help with all of the extra work in our industries as a result of the crisis. It is not expected for the National Guard to be working side-by-side with members in our stores.
  • Many union companies are hiring and we encourage anyone who wants to work to apply.
  • Retirees have also asked if they can return to work in our industry and we are working with companies to address this issue and will get in touch with Retirees if the restrictions are modified.
  • Yesterday, the governor classified grocery workers as essential personnel. We are in discussions with elected officials in the legislature to classify retail food workers as first responders for even more benefits for workers in these challenging times.
  • Local 99 is in touch with the members using all forms of communication, from postings on the web site and social media to printed material mailed to the homes for families’ education, as well as individual contacts by phone, text and email.
  • You probably already know the what to do to avoid the contracting and spreading the virus and what symptoms to watch out for. To summarize, they are:
    • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after touching surfaces in public areas, and especially if you are around someone who isn’t feeling well. Also, clean and disinfect frequently-touched objects;
    • Avoid contact with anyone known to be sick;
    • These are the typical symptoms of the virus:
      • Dry cough, fever, shortness of breath;
    • If you are sick, please do not go to work. Stay at home.
    • If you suspect that you might have been infected and require medical attention, you have options.
      • First, if you cannot breathe or if you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.
      • You can also get medical advice from your home on the telephone by contacting Teladoc.
      • Lastly, you can contact your medical provider.


What is Teladoc?

  • Teladoc is a fast and easy way to connect with a health professional. It can replace an in-person office visit for most cases.
    • If you are covered under the plan, it is a resource for members and their families without further burdening the health care system.
    • Even if you are healthy, we encourage all of members to create an account so, in the event you might need it, you will have access to a licensed AZ doctor to assess your condition, answer questions about virus testing and address any other medical issues that may be of concern.
  • If you or a family member feels some of the symptoms associated with COVID-19, Teladoc can help address those concerns with a health professional who might advise you to get tested.
  • Please click on this link to Local 99’s web site com/Teladoc and follow our link to step-by-step instructions to create an account.
  • You can also download the Teladoc App on your smartphone.
  • If contacting Teladoc becomes necessary, we urge you to be patient as there may be a longer than normal wait for a consultation with a medical professional.

Even with the most general of answers, each member has specific needs and circumstances, so we urge you to contact your union rep and/or store manager to address the specifics of the situation.

Here are some answers to some of many questions we’ve received.

  1. I am concerned about my exposure to the public at work because I am over 60 or because I live with someone over 60 and/or I am immunocompromised. What are my options?
    At this time, you may be eligible for a leave of absence per the guidelines outlined in the CBA.  Proper documents still will be required to qualify for a leave. If you have concerns, you should consult first with your union representative, health care provider and store manager.
  1. Will I receive replacement pay if I am diagnosed with COVID-19, ordered by a health care provider to self-quarantine or sent home due to symptoms I am experiencing?
    We have been in constant contact with the employers and will continue to monitor the ongoing changes.  You will likely be eligible for pay. You should, however, contact your union representative, as they can review the specifics between the policies and give the best information for you.

    We expect to have more guidance about these and other stimulus actions being taken by the Federal government once the Senate passes a worker aid bill.

  1. I am concerned about my exposure to the public while I am still working, what is my company doing to provide time to wash hands and protective supplies such as gloves, masks and sanitizer?
    I have been notified that both Safeway and Fry’s are in the process of installing plexiglass barriers at the cash registers. They have both lifted restrictions allowing employees to wear masks while working, if that makes a member more comfortable, with the understanding that masks and gloves aren’t guaranteed by the CDC to protect against infection. Also, masks and gloves are in short supply and being prioritized for those working in health care. Companies will provide them if they’re able to but, at the moment, they are still in short supply.
  1. What if I am unable to return after 2 weeks? Will I still receive pay?
    Members who are on COVID-19 leave should contact their union representative or their store managers if more time is needed. You will need to keep proper health care provider documents updated with the company.
  1. What if the transportation systems are shut down and I am unable to get to work or arrive on time? What will happen?
    There are many issues that may arise. Right now we are not anticipating a disruption in the transportation system. However, if one occurs, we urge you to contact your union representative and store manager to discuss the problem.
  2. I have respiratory problems. What if I decide not to return to work because I’m sick?
    Contact your union rep and your health care provider and communicate their concerns with your store manager. Within 24 hours you will receive an email summarizing what we discussed in this call and it will include a number of links and resources that will help ease the anxiety and challenges we’re faced with. Please save the email as a resource for the future as well.


Throughout history, events like these have brought out the best in people. We urge you to:

  • Look out for one another.
  • Please don’t listen to or spread rumors.
  • Even though you’re working under tremendous pressure, it’s critical to protect your contract for tomorrow.
  • In crises, it’s tempting to put others first, but don’t put the company first now; take your breaks, take your lunches and use the contract to protect yourself and your family.
  • Don’t give up the protections we’ve fought so hard for so many decades.

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

Stay safe. Stay healthy. And remember, we are better when we work together.

We will get through this because we WILL work together.