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Sacramento, CA – The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council today released the following statement from Amber Baur, Executive Director, UFCW Western States Council, in response to the California Legislature’s agreed upon budget for 2021-2022:
“If California is going to roar back from this pandemic, it must continue to support the workers who carried us through the last year – those who kept food on our tables, risked exposure in checkout lines, cared for patients in pharmacies, and worked in meat processing plants where social distancing was virtually impossible. These are the workers who will continue to bear the greatest risks as our state reopens. While the 180,000 UFCW members in California are glad that the state Legislature’s agreed upon budget for 2021-2022 invests in working people, we believe there is much more work to be done as budget negotiations with the Governor’s office continue.
“Right now, California has the opportunity to use federal American Rescue Act funds to recognize the sacrifice our workers have made, to invest in their strength and bolster their future by providing them with hazard pay. Workers took care of us by going to work when everyone else was isolating at home, and now it’s time for us to take care of them. We look forward to continuing our work with the Governor and the Legislature to ensure California’s budget reflects the sacrifices our workers have made, and that it meets the needs of UFCW members and every working family across the state.”
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 2021
Contact: Jenna Thompson, 949.246.1620, [email protected]
Daniel de la Cruz, a worker from Food 4 Less in Los Angeles, and member of UFCW Local 770, is one of the essential workers who put his health on the line each day going to work to provide for his family. “I’ve been assaulted, I’ve been coughed on, I’ve been yelled at and attacked personally by customers calling me derogatory names. This was hard to take mentally and emotionally. Getting hero’s pay makes me feel not only supported but respected. All we’re asking for is that essential workers like myself must not be ignored.”
Millions of Californians owe their lives and health to essential workers who put themselves and their families at great risk to keep the state running while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. As our state looks to build back better, we cannot forget the brave workers who stocked our grocery shelves, cleaned our hospitals, risked exposure in checkout lines, cared for dying patients in ICUs and nursing homes, and endured tight quarters in meat processing plants to help get California through the pandemic.
Essential workers risked their lives, and the lives of elderly parents and vulnerable children at home to ensure Californians remained healthy. Healthcare workers in particular spent months away from their families to keep them safe. They slept outside in tents to guarantee they wouldn’t take the virus home to their families. These dangerous and grueling working conditions have taken a toll. Since March of 2020, at least one in four healthcare workers have considered leaving their job, and 14% of those workers have considered leaving the profession altogether.
California is already facing a future with an insufficient workforce to meet our healthcare needs. COVID-19 has only increased our demand for qualified workers, outpacing the number of people entering the field. California needs approximately 500,000 new healthcare workers by 2024. Providing care for all who need it in the future is dependent on retaining our healthcare workforce. We now have an opportunity to improve the retention of the healthcare workforce and recognize the incredible efforts and sacrifices healthcare workers have made throughout the COVID-19 pandemic by providing Hazard Pay to these frontline heroes.
It’s not just healthcare workers who have faced risk by going to work each day. Essential workers throughout the state have held the frontline in our grocery stores, fast food restaurants, as janitors and security officers, and in transportation have continued to do their jobs at great personal risk to themselves and their families.
“I have been an armed officer in charge of protecting the Los Angeles County Probation Department for 17 years and I am an essential worker. My job is very important to me and I love what I do. Even when it gets stressful, I go to work every day knowing I keep people safe. While some people were able to stay home when the pandemic hit, essential workers like myself were not. We continue to show up every day, even though we knew we were exposing ourselves and our families to get to getting sick. I asked that you support essential workers and recognize the risk that we take to make sure we keep California running.” -Tonie Wilson, a Security Officer in Los Angeles
Essential workers have worked throughout the pandemic with very little protection, all so millions of Californians can stay safely at home. Many of these essential workers are employed in low-paying professions, work closely next to their co-workers, and often receive insufficient benefits. The sacrifice they made is evidenced by a report by the University of California, Merced, which showed a 38% increase in deaths of California workers in high-risk industries last year. Workers in food-supply chain industries comprised four of the ten California industries with the highest increase in deaths.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, California’s essential workers have been there for all of us when we needed them most, putting themselves in harm’s way just by showing up to work. It’s time we recognize the enormous effort and sacrifice our essential workers have made and show them the respect and appreciation they deserve. California’s essential workers deserve Hazard Pay. And California has the opportunity to do just that. Governor Newsom and legislators must take American Rescue Act funds to recognize these workers’ sacrifice and invest in their strength. Hazard Pay would provide badly needed support and recognition to our frontline workers, helping to ensure that our state will have the experienced and healthy workforce it needs to build back better.
Investing in the people who carried us through the pandemic is the right thing to do.
If you’d like to join the conversation on Hazard Pay, please consider sharing your story on social media, and be sure to tag us, using the hashtag #HazardPayNOW.
Sacramento, CA – Today, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), Western States Council and the California Labor Federation celebrated the California State Senate’s approval of SB 606 (Gonzalez). SB 606 would give the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) the necessary tools to hold large employers accountable for workplace health and safety violations.
“Workers are the backbone of our economy, and the sacrifices they’ve made throughout the pandemic are the reason why California is finally seeing the light at the end of this tunnel,” said Andrea Zinder, President, UFCW Western States Council and UFCW Local 324. “As the state reopens, and as we prepare for a post-pandemic future, we must ensure our workers have safe working conditions that prioritize their health and wellbeing. Enforcement is essential for worker safety, and SB 606 is critical to ensuring California’s workplace safety agency has the resources available to protect workers on the job. Our members know that when an employer policy is violating health and safety laws in one location, they’re most likely violating it in all their locations. The bill saves Cal/OSHA inspectors valuable time and resources when citing employers that flaunt workplace safety rules in multiple locations, and we’re proud the Senate joined us in support.”
A recent study by the University of California at San Francisco shows the unspeakable price essential workers have paid for the failure of companies to keep their workers safe at their worksite. Food and agricultural workers faced the greatest risk of contracting COVID-19, with a 39% increase in death rates during this pandemic, followed by transportation and logistic workers, facilities workers, and manufacturing workers. These jobs are typically held by lower-income workers of color who don’t have the choice of working from home and are often forced to work in close proximity to their co-workers.
“The pandemic exposed like never before just how critically important health and safety measures are to protecting workers on the job,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski. “Health and safety regulations can only protect workers if they are vigorously enforced. SB 606 gives Cal/OSHA the necessary tools to impose real penalties on flagrant violators of state law that endanger the safety and lives of workers. We applaud the State Senate for passing this necessary legislation and for sending a message that California won’t tolerate employers putting workers at grave risk on the job.”
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2021
Contact: Jenna Thompson, 949.246.1620, [email protected]