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Dear Sisters and Brothers:

Earlier this week, we held our third Telephone Town Hall. For those of you who were able to join us, you may find this summary helpful and for those of you who couldn’t join us, here is what we discussed.

Tuesday was Workers Memorial Day. We paid tribute to workers across the country, across every trade, who have lost their lives or been injured on the job.

It is particularly poignant this year as we mourn thet more than 30 members in our UFCW International Union family who we have lost as well as hundreds of members who are struggling to recover from COVID-19. In particular, we mourn the loss of one of our members, a steward who passed away a few weeks ago and the dozens of Local 99 members who are dealing with Covid-19 now.

The last eight weeks have been a whirlwind; no one could have predicted we would be where we are today.

We’ve had to follow a moving target from stocking the ever-elusive toilet paper to securing and wearing personal protection equipment and supplying sanitizer. We worked with the companies to install washing stations at the front end of most stores, plexiglass barriers in the check stands and we now practice social distancing of six feet.

One benefit that has come out of all this is the widespread recognition of you, our members.

Day in and day out you serve the public, put product on the shelves and food in the stores. Day in and day out you go into work and make sure the essentials are available to help our customers. Some days shrugging off your own personal safety.

I am more and more proud of the members of this union with every passing day

In an editorial I penned for the Arizona Republic, published last week, I referred to you, the people I call “Our accidental heroes…”

These heroes’ courage, work ethic and commitment to the customers is inspiring

There’s no way to sugar-coat reality, though. It’s scary to watch the numbers of those getting sick and succumbing to the virus increase.

At this point, it’s likely we have all been touched by someone who has taken ill, or worse, has passed away, as a result of this deadly virus.

It is hard on us and our families; the stress and anxiety can take a physical and a mental toll.

For those of you who weren’t on previous calls, we went into quite a bit of detail about the resources available to the members for telephonic medicine, with Teladoc, as well as many different resources to help with issues relating to anxiety, depression and the many other effects this pandemic has on ourselves and our families.

Even if we are the lucky ones and test negative, it’s ok to feel scared and anxious about the current situation and about the future.

Always know you are not alone. You have thousands and thousands of union sisters and brothers and we are all in this together. Your union and your union rep are just a click, a text or a phone call away.

If you are concerned, scared or have a question, pick up the phone so we can help you.

That’s our role in this union. We are here for our members on and off the job every step of the way.

There seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, so we are focusing on our next steps.

We are in regular contact with the companies under contract with Local 99, with the health departments across our state as well as with the Governor’s office and the state legislators and our representatives in Congress and our US Senator.

At some point, Arizona will slowly begin to re-open and loosen restrictions.

When this happens, it’s important not to let your guard down.

Just because guidelines may seem less restrictive, stay the course, at least for a while.

Our members must be even more vigilant as restrictions are relaxed and customers come into the stores more frequently.

We must continue to wash our hands, to wear masks and to continue honoring social distancing.

• Make sure you are washing your hands as much as possible and using hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands.

If you need more hand sanitizer, let your union rep know.

We’ve distributed sanitizer in the stores, and more is on the way.  It’s like mining for gold to find it, but we are finding it and will get more out in the stores as soon as we can.

• Wear your mask at work. It’s company policy now and part of your uniform.

If a person who has COVID-19 wears a mask and YOU wear a mask – you are 98% protected.

Another way to look at it …

    • If a COVID carrier is near you and only you have a mask on, you are 30% protected from catching the virus from an infected person.
    • If a COVID carrier is wearing a mask and you are not, you are 95% protected from catching the virus. But who knows if the person near you is a carrier?
    • However, if a COVID carrier is wearing a mask AND YOU are wearing the mask, you have less than a 2% probability of catching the virus. If everyone is wearing a mask, you are 98% Protected.

We know they may be uncomfortable. The companies have indicated you can bring and wear your own masks, if you prefer.

It’s important to wear face coverings whether they be medical masks, masks made at home, or even bandanas … It’s all about being as safe as we possibly can.

• Practice social distancing

Don’t host or go to a BBQ right now. Avoid crowds.

Stay six feet apart from each other, which is approximately the length of two grocery carts, and be aware of the markings on the floor.

Keep the circle of people you are close to small, in order to protect our communities.

It’s not the time to let our guard down. We must safeguard those who need to be protected: our elderly, our sick, our immune-compromised population.

 

Secretary-Treasurer Stan Chavira Shares Member Questions / President McLaughlin answers:

There have been lots of specific questions which are best answered by individual reps. We can’t emphasize it enough: call your union rep with questions.

Don’t just guess or rely on an outside source for information. Don’t neglect to ask a question that is crucial to you as an individual. Get the answers from your union rep.

Q: A MEMBER IS ON FURLOUGH AND DOESN’T WANT TO BURN HIS VACATION. DOES HIS MEDICAL STAY INTACT IF HE TAKES FURLOUGH?

Nothing has changed on eligibility for health and welfare. As long as working 80 hours/100 hours per month. If you are on medical leave you are eligible for waivers or FMLA coverage, nothing has changed. We urge you to get in touch with your rep for specifics.

CAN I WEAR A BETTER QUALITY MASK THAN THE ONE THE COMPANY IS PROVIDING?

You can bring masks from home. We’ve worked this out with your company. It’s important we all wear face coverings to protect ourselves and those around us. Masks should not be “outrageous” and must conform to company dress policy.

WILL I BE ABLE TO BE TESTED?

Testing is available through doctor’s offices; some of the restrictions and requirements for testing are being relaxed and more tests are being made available.

SELF CHECKOUT IS NOT SAFE. WHAT’S BEING DONE?

We’ve brought this up with the companies, the need to make the self-checkout area safer. We’ve suggested plexiglass screens in the self-checkout area, and it is a constant point of conversation to try to find a solution. It’s not a place where our members can just stand and not move around. It’s difficult to find a solution, but I was at a Lowe’s store and they had a rolling cart with plexiglass screen.  Six weeks ago, I didn’t imagine plexiglass in front of our registers and look around today. It’s evident that this situation is fluid and we’re constantly searching for ideas to make the workplace safer.

I HAVE NOT GOTTEN MY $2 PAY INCREASE, WAS I OVERLOOKED? THIS INCREASE ENDS MAY 1?

As of today, the increase is scheduled to end May 2, but we’re in constant contact to continue that increase as long as we can. If you haven’t gotten your pay increase and you are eligible, call your rep to get that corrected.

EMPLOYEES AT A NUMBER OF STORES DON’T THINK COMPANIES ARE DOING ENOUGH TO REGULATE HOW MANY CUSTOMERS ARE ALLOWED TO SHOP. FAMILIES AND GROUPS COMING IN AT ONE TIME IS A CONCERN AS WELL.

We are working with the companies to get to a number that is manageable and provide for the safety of our members and our customers.

IF AN EMPLOYEE TESTS POSITIVE IN THE STORE, OTHER EMPLOYEES FEEL STORE IS JUST TRYING TO KEEP THE CASE QUIET AND NOT INFORMING EMPLOYEES WHO COULD HAVE BEEN IN CONTACT. ALSO, NOT PROVIDING RESOURCES FOR TESTING FOR THOSE THAT MAY HAVE BEEN EXPOSED FROM A CO-WORKER?

There are restrictions and privacy laws that are in effect to protect people’s health – We know people want to know if they’ve been exposed or not, that information may not be available unless the employee who has been affected shares it. – but you can keep up to date by talking to your rep.

Thank you to those members who emailed questions. This allows us to get critical information distributed quickly and efficiently.

For the questions regarding health and welfare, pensions, leaves of absences and others requiring individual answers, we urge you to contact your union rep.

We’re here to help you every step of the way. We are your resource and are working to protect you and your families. You are my number one priority.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. And remember, we are better when we work together. We will get through this because we WILL work together.