- The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is calling on grocers, meatpackers and other frontline employers to guarantee that they will provide paid time off for workers to allow them to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Food industry workers continue to have difficulty accessing shots even as eligibility has opened to anyone 16 or over nationwide, the UFCW said in a statement on Thursday. The union's statement came a day after the Biden administration urged employers to compensate workers for the time it takes them to get vaccinated and that they might need to recover from side effects.
- Deaths from COVID-19 among grocery workers have increased by 30% since March 1, according to the union.
The UFCW's effort to win assurance that workers it represents won't have to give up pay to get inoculated comes even as a number of grocery chains have been compensating employees who choose to get vaccinated.
Retailers including Kroger, Lidl, Aldi and Trader Joe's have said they will provide extra pay to workers who choose to get vaccinated, although the payment amount, time off and other details vary by company.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden unveiled tax credits for businesses with fewer than 500 workers to help offset costs associated with leave for employees who get COVID-19 shots. Speaking at the White House, the president pointed to Kroger's decision to pay workers who get vaccinated $100 as an example of how businesses have been "stepping up to meet this historic moment" and said vaccination rates among Kroger associates have risen from 50% to 75% as a result of the grocer's policy.
"Every employee should get paid leave to get a shot. And businesses should know that they can provide it without a hit to their bottom line. There’s no excuse for not getting it done," Biden said.
The UFCW has sought to draw attention to obstacles grocery workers have faced in protecting themselves throughout the pandemic, including difficulty obtaining personal protective equipment and getting access to COVID-19 tests. Labor officials have also called out grocers after many ended the hazard pay programs they initially rolled out at the start of the public health crisis.