Retailers Amend Policies to Allow Masks and Gloves While Working

Members are feeling relieved as Retail Meat and Grocery Employers agree to allow for workers to wear masks and are providing gloves at all of our Union Grocery stores. Initial concerns that the community would think our members were working sick, have been replaced by the willingness to do what is necessary to protect the workers. As plexiglass barriers find their way into the check stands, UFCW Local 1189 has been working with our employers to update policies and protect our members. Union Members in virtually all of of the industries we represent have been deemed essential. Our members are proud to be providing the services necessary; whether that is caring for vulnerable residents and patients, food processing, or ensuring that the people in our communities to have meat in their refrigerator and groceries in their pantries.

With the ever growing threat of COVID-19, front line workers, especially those with health concerns, older workers, or ones with family members who are high risk, are increasingly concerned about their personal safety and the safety of their families (not wanting to bring an illness home). As essential workers, their jobs are necessary and their contact with the community is frequent. OSHA recently published guidance for employers to prepare their workplaces for COVID-19. Please note that even though the policies have been amended, there is a shortage of masks for our caregivers and our Retail employers will not be able to supply our grocery store members with masks. 

The decision to allow masks and provide gloves is greatly appreciated. It is important for the community to understand that when they see a retail worker in a grocery store wearing a mask they are not ill, but they are taking steps they feel they need to take to protect themselves and their family.

As shopper, there are many things that you, the public, can do to help keep the workers and all of us safer when you shop to help minimize the potential negative impacts of shopping during this crisis:

1. Wash your hands before and after going to the store

2. Wipe down your phone, keys and credit cards

You may be washing your hands, but have you ever sanitized your credit or debit card? The CDC suggests that in addition to regular hand-washing, you clean and disinfect anything else that you tend to touch a lot using a regular cleaning spray or wipe. If you are touching your keys, wallet, and phone each time you leave the house, it’s good to be mindful they can carry germs and are among items that should be cleaned.

3. Avoid touching surfaces with your hands when possible

To the extent possible, avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places – elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.

4. Stay calm and be civil

Many stores may be out of products that are in high demand. Workers are doing the best they can under less than ideal circumstances. Remember, we’re all in this together.

5. Stock up, but don’t hoard

The CDC has recommended people stock up to reduce the number of trips needed, but try to be realistic about your needs and do not hoard more than you will use. Your neighbors also need to be able to buy goods for their families.

6. Avoid peak hours

It is hard to maintain the recommended distance between yourself and others if it is during a rush.

7. Keep your distance from other shoppers

This is especially important if your store uses Uscan or other mobile self-checkout technology, where grocery workers have reported shoppers are often ignoring recommended guidelines.

8. Skip the reusable bags

While reusable bags are environmentally friendly, in this case, they also present an unnecessary opportunity to transmit germs. If you have to use reusable bags, wash them between uses and store them in a sanitary environment.

9. Wipe down your cart or basket before and after use

10. Remember to clean your cart

Studies have found car steering wheels often have more germs than public toilets. It’s easy for germs to follow you back to your vehicle in between when you have a chance to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.

11.  Shop at a union store

We know we are biased, but the UFCW is hard at work advocating for our members’ interests during this crisis. We want to ensure employees are able to work as safely as possible. We know it is necessary that grocery stores and other retailers stay open so the rest of us can eat and have access to other essentials, and that many hardworking men and women can’t afford to go without a paycheck. Union workers have a way to raise health and safety concerns without having to worry about retaliation if they brought their concerns directly to management. The same may not be true for a non-union store.