BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — More than a dozen U.S. Senators are calling on the nation's top grocery store chains to extend hazard pay to workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, America’s largest food and retail union, there have been 93 grocery worker deaths and 12,405 union workers infected or exposed to coronavirus so far.
During a virtual press call on Friday, Senator Elizabeth Warren joined UFCW in calling on the nation's top grocery chains to reinstate hazard pay for frontline workers, as COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the country.
"Grocery workers are facing serious health risks in order to keep their communities fed," said Warren, "They're facing the fear of getting sick at work ... bringing coronavirus home to their families. They should be compensated for the extra risk they face every single day just by going to work."
Sen. Warren is one of 13 Senators signed on to a letter to the CEO's of the 15 largest grocery stores, including Whole Foods, Kroger, Costo, Trader Joe's, Sprouts, Walmart, and Wegmans.
"Workers at grocery stores, food processing plants, and warehouses are at a higher risk of COVID-19 because they work in indoor environments and have repeated close proximity, and sometimes prolonged exposure to coworkers and customers," said the letter. "Black and Latinx workers make up a disproportionate number of these frontline workers and are less likely to receive paid sick leave or have the ability to work from home."
According to the UFCW, based on a survey of 4,000 grocery employees, nearly 7 out of 10 workers said their employers are not enforcing mask mandates in the stores, and 75 percent of workers are afraid an even worse second wave of COVID-19 cases is coming.
UFCW International President Marc Perrone said since the beginning of the pandemic, the union has been calling for hazard pay, increased access to COVID testing and PPE, and the enforcement of mask mandates in stores.
"It is outrageous that top grocery chains across the country have cut hazard pay for these essential workers, even as they rake in billions in profits and the danger of COVID-19 continues to grow," said Perrone. "Leaders from the White House to countless retail boardrooms have simply failed to do their jobs to protect the American people and these companies still refuse to tell the truth about how many of their workers are getting sick or dying."
The Senators' letter follows announcements this week from several major retailers that they will enforce mask requirements, including Walmart, Target, Kroger, CVS, Best Buy, and Lowe’s.
(Photo: Getty Images)