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Grocery union asks Polis for better protections

Posted at 10:51 AM, Mar 18, 2020

WHEAT RIDGE, Colorado — The president of the 23,000 member United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 7, sent a letter to Governor Jared Polis Wednesday requesting that grocery store employees be designated as first responders during the COVID-19 outbreak and asks for additional protections to ensure the safety of Colorado’s food supply, store employees, and the public at large.

In her letter, president Kim Cordova requests a new executive order that would require employers to provide personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks, and that adequate supplies of hand sanitizer and soap be made available throughout the stores. The letter also requests that stores be able to establish and enforce limits on who can access the stores at any give time, and to consider posting law enforcement in the facilities to ensure public order.

"Our membership is uniquely exposed to the Coronavirus because of their essential work," Cordova writes. "This is particularly true because, in servicing the public, our members cannot self-distance as recommended by the CDC."

The full list of demands in the letter are as follows:

  • Require covered employers to provide appropriate gloves and masks, and other personal protective equipment as necessary to carry out their essential tasks.
  • Require covered employers to ensure that adequate supplies of hand sanitizer and soap are available at all grocery check stands, store entrances, and departments within grocery retail establishments.
  • Require covered employers to ensure that adequate supplies of hand sanitizer and soap are available throughout facilities where food processing and manufacturing operations are performed.
  • Require covered employers to ensure that adequate supplies of hand sanitizer and soap are available throughout health care facilities for use by employees and the visiting public.
  • Direct that grocery stores statewide be closed to the general public at least from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. during the length of this crisis so that the stores can be properly sanitized and restocked.
  • Direct that grocery stores statewide establish and enforce reasonable limits on customers who may access the stores at any given time to ensure compliance with applicable safety and fire codes.
  • Temporarily supersede and suspend municipal and county ordinances banning single-use grocery bags to lessen the probable spread of the virus through reusable grocery bags.
  • Designate limited, discrete store hours for higher-risk individuals, based on the most-recent CDC guidelines.
  • Require employers to accommodate employees who fall within the higher-risk population, as defined by the most-recent CDC guidelines, with lower-exposure work assignments.Consider posting law enforcement within grocery and healthcare facilities to ensure the continued maintenance of public order.
  • Issue a further emergency labor regulation requiring covered employers who provide health insurance to continue premium payments regardless of hours worked by the employee, and suspending minimum coverage requirements such as length of service.Issue a further emergency labor regulation requiring covered employers who provide health insurance to continue premium payments regardless of hours worked by the employee, and suspending minimum coverage requirements such as length of service.
  • Issue a further emergency regulation requiring covered employers to provide two-weeks of paid leave to any employee who is unable to work either because he or she has been diagnosed with or has a suspected case of COVID-19, or has been told to self-quarantine by a healthcare professional or by their employer. Additionally, this regulation should extend the above coverage to employees caring for a family member or loved one diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Issue a further emergency regulation directing that these critical employees receive, in additional to their normal wages, hazard pay no less than twenty-five percent (25%) of their base salary, solely during the course of this health emergency.

A news release sent to members of the media accompanying the letter states state government, "must step in to ensure that the needs of Colorado’s citizenry and workforce are placed ahead of corporate profits."

“The Union is actively attempting to collaborate and coordinate with Colorado’s employers to ensure an effective and safe response to this ever-changing crisis,” Cordova said.

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