Sacramento, CA – The United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council, representing frontline workers in grocery, pharmacies and meatpacking plants across California, called Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order on workers compensation a much-needed first step to protect workers who have put their lives on the line through the COVID-19 pandemic. The order means California’s essential frontline workers will have legal recourse when they become sick from COVID-19 and access to income or health care coverage once their leave balances are used up.
“California depends on grocery workers, pharmacists, meat packers and other frontline workers to take on heroic challenges during the pandemic; it is unjust for them to face arduous legal hurdles and expenses if they get sick and are fighting for their lives,” said John Grant, president of UFCW Local 770. “Despite the risks they face on the job, UFCW members go to work each day determined to keep Californians fed and healthy. UFCW looks forward to working with the California legislature and the administration to remove additional barriers faced by essential workers who are putting their lives on the line during the COVID-19 crisis in our state.”
The Governor’s order is an important step toward fairness for essential workers who face an extremely difficult process in California to successfully pursue a workers’ compensation claim related to COVID-19. Under California’s workers compensation laws they had to demonstrate that they contracted COVID-19 at work. Now, after a positive test or diagnosis, workers are presumed to have contracted the disease at their workplaces. Rather than the employee facing the burden of proof, the employer must offer evidence to rebut the presumption the virus was contracted on the job.
“UFCW members across the state appreciate that Governor Newsom has recognized the unique role grocery and retail store workers have on the frontlines of this crisis and the risk we face from constant exposure to the public,” said Andrea Zinder, president of UFCW Western States Council and UFCW Local 324. “No one should lose their livelihoods or their lives because they stepped up to serve on the frontlines of this crisis; the Governor’s executive order provides needed security for workers who will still need to feed their families and pay rent if they get sick on the job.”
“Retail grocery workers didn’t expect to be on the front lines of a global pandemic, but they’ve stepped up into the role of everyday heroes keeping communities healthy and fed despite the risks to themselves and their families,” said Jacques Loveall, President of UFCW 8-Golden State. “When the risks turn to illness, these essential workers shouldn’t bear the added burden of a long and expensive court battle just when they need to pay their bills and provide for their families. Today’s executive order gives the workers we need most a step toward the security they deserve.”
The change to California’s workers compensation law is retroactive from March 19, 2020, the day the Governor declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19, and will cover claims issued until 60 days after today to help with California’s recovery.
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