(HOLLAND, MI) – In response to repeated delays in providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) to workers at Kraft Heinz Company (Kraft Heinz), and lack of real negotiations around essential pay and quarantine procedures, Local 705 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) issued the following statement on behalf of the workers they represent at Kraft Heinz in Holland, Michigan.
“Our members are putting their own lives on the line to keep us safe and fed. They deserve more than just our thanks and gratitude in these challenging times - they are essential workers and deserve essential pay. They are shouldering extra burdens, taking extra risks and experiencing incredible stress - none of which were supposed to be part of their jobs. Not only should they be compensated for this critical essential work they are providing our country right now, but our members shouldn’t be expected to use their vacation days when they have to be quarantined because they have been in contact while at work with someone who has the virus. That’s just wrong.
“RWDSU Local 705 was told that the local plant could not offer any pay or benefits above what Kraft Heinz Company issued in their national COVID-19 letter for our members at the facility in Holland, Michigan. The letter dictated the terms under which they would operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not only too little too late, but plainly it provides insufficient protections, quarantine procedures, and necessary essential pay for our members.
“Most outrageously, despite the fact that COVID-19 has been spreading across our nation for weeks, workers at this facility still don’t have the proper PPE they need. Weeks ago workers were promised masks, and they’re still yet to arrive, despite promises from management day after day that they would.
“Our members are putting food on America’s tables during a national crisis. They are ensuring that the little comfort iconic Kraft Heinz brands bring to America’s families continues to be available. Our members more than deserve essential pay, but it cannot be tied to their attendance. Tying extra pay to attendance encourages workers to come to work when they are sick. They deserve so much more from the multi-billion dollar company for putting their lives on the line.
“Kraft Heinz, the nation's leading food processor, can and must do better for its workers. Our union and our members won't stand to be treated as disposable at a time when they have never been more critical and essential,” said Michael Flanery, Vice President and Regional Director of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
Local 705 of the RWDSU, demands Kraft Heinz Company negotiate with the union over the terms under which members will work during COVID-19 and initially demands that the company:
Immediately repeal any and all essential pay requirements tied to attendance. As America’s leading food processor Kraft Heinz needs to provide workers with critical essential pay that will make a real impact on workers' lives and their families. A multi-billion dollar revenue generating company can and must do better;
Provide proper PPE to workers, including masks swiftly. The fact that we are over a month into the COVID-19 pandemic and workers still don’t have masks is inexcusable;
Pay workers fully for needed quarantine time. Requiring workers to use their hard earned vacation time is inexcusable, especially when they have been exposed to the virus while at work while performing critically needed essential work during a global pandemic.
The terms laid out by Kraft Heinz Company in their initial national letter to the RWDSU have done little to stem workers' concerns of the spread of COVID-19 at their facility. While the company has shut down portions of their lines twice for confirmed and pending COVID-19 cases, and provided additional cleaning both during the shutdowns and throughout normal operations, without the proper PPE cases will continue to spread throughout the facility. Some workers remain on quarantine and are scared waiting for test results, and workers who contracted the virus at work are scared for their families, yet our members continue to provide essential food for Americans.