ShopRite has struck a hazard pay deal with about 50,000 union grocery workers. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million food and retail workers – announced a new agreement on hazard pay for nearly 50,000 union grocery workers in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. The deal with ShopRite, the largest employer in New Jersey, recognizes the ongoing risks ShopRite workers have faced as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and provides retroactive hazard pay ahead of the holiday season that covers all hours worked between July 26 and August 22, the union said. read more about it here
A push by workers at Amazon’s Bessemer fulfillment center to form a union drew national attention last month. But what does the process of forming a union look like? And how might it look during the busiest time of the year, in the middle of a pandemic? Employees at Amazon’s facility in Bessemer notified the National Labor Relations Board Nov. 20 that they want to hold an election to create a bargaining unit that would cover 1,500 full-time and part-time workers. The group would be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). read the full story here at AL.com
By RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum Even in the best of times, the holiday season is very stressful for workers at retail stores and supermarkets. Big crowds, irritable customers, hectic days and the need for workers themselves to take care of their own holiday obligations can all weigh heavily on workers’ shoulders this time of year. In 2020, however, with the historic COVID-19 pandemic heading toward a terrifying new peak amidst a second wave, this stress is going to be exponentially worse. This holiday season, we owe it to these workers to provide comfort, protection, and understanding as they continue to put their lives on the line so that we can all have the best 2020 holiday season that’s possible under these difficult circumstances. We’ve already seen what the pandemic has done to the front-facing workers who have kept New York and the rest of the country moving as we’ve been forced to dramatically change our lives to fight COVID-19. A recent study in Boston shows that approximately 20 percent of frontline supermarket workers tested positive for COVID-19, and that these workers are up to 22 times more likely to test positive than the general population. At least 108 American grocery store workers have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Retail workers have had a tough time too, with fewer hours, fewer available jobs, and the added stress of the pandemic. The same study reported that retail workers reported having increased anxiety and increased cases of depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we struggle with this second wave, we are all concerned about schools closing again and taking care of our families and children. It’s a rough time for all New Yorkers, but for these frontline workers, it’s even worse with the added stress of working through the holidays. Employers need to give serious consideration to renewed “hero pay,” bonuses that recognize the danger these workers face. These workers also deserve additional paid time off in the event that they or someone close to them tests positive for the virus. We need to provide not just safer workplaces, but social support from employers and customers for workers who are helping us through this crisis and a second wave that threatens the progress we’ve made in New York. And most of all, when we go to supermarkets and retail stores this season, we need to be as considerate as possible to these workers who will be a big part of making the 2020 holidays the best they can be for our families. Let’s protect them by ensuring we are wearing masks and doing it properly, by doing our best to social distance and keep our hands clean, and by staying home if we aren’t feeling well. Most importantly, let’s recognize what they are going through and do everything we can to make this season as anxiety-free as possible. This season, a little kindness will go a long way toward ensuring these workers are able to enjoy the holidays as much as we hope to with our families. This column appeared in the Amsterdam News
“Retail workers experience heightened stress and pressure during the holiday season, even in normal times. However, this year that stress is exponentially increased because of the serious health and safety risks resulting from the pandemic. Workers are in public-facing jobs; and they interact with larger numbers of customers during the holiday season, risking their own exposure to COVID-19 as well as possibly bringing it home to their families. Customers can limit the exposure workers face by wearing a mask at all times while shopping, sanitizing their hands before and after entering a store, staying 6-feet apart from workers and other customers and most importantly, treating workers with dignity and respect while they shop. This holiday season, retail workers need customers to do everything they can to help keep everybody safe,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).
After a long, difficult battle with management for their first union contract, RWDSU Local 262 members at Bloomsburg Care & Rehabilitation Center in Pennsylvania have won numerous improvements. The new contract includes improved starting minimum rates, annual raises, an affordable healthcare union medical plan, secured paid time off and improved job security, addressing many of the issues the workers had when they won their campaign to join the RWDSU in May, 2020. The 90 workers at the facility now have the security and voice on the job provided by a union contract. “I am extremely proud of these members. Through patience and perseverance we achieved a really strong first contract that provides a solid foundation for contracts to come,” said Local 262 RWDSU President, Daniel Righetti. The BCRC employees fought hard for a settlement that shows respect for the important work they do to care for their residents, and a strong, outspoken negotiating committee made the difference. “The BCRC employees united as a cohesive team, remained stronger together and were victorious. I’m very proud to have worked and be a part of this team.” said Local 262 RWDSU Business Agent Danielle Albano.
Following months of delays and stalling by management, employees at the Downtown Brooklyn homeless and HIV/AIDS nonprofit Housing Works will finally be able to vote to unionize in the coming weeks. Labor organizers and Housing Works honchos have signed a new agreement that paves the way to hold an election by mail with ballots going out starting Nov. 20 and due back Dec. 14, according to a Friday social media post by the Housing Works Union. Read it at AMNY here
Cash or credit? For many New Yorkers, including those without access to a bank account, cash is the only option. While a new law will soon require local businesses to accept cold hard cash, advocates are calling on federal lawmakers to put their money where their mouth is, too. Erica Ford, CEO of Life Camp Inc., is calling on the city’s congressional delegation to push through a law requiring that cashless businesses accept paper money. “There’s a lot of people who are going to get left out of the conversation,” she told the Daily News. “I see a barrier that has to be addressed.” Ford, who’s known for her efforts to prevent gang violence, said the issues raised by cashless businesses became especially clear after the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. For people with no bank accounts or direct deposit, receiving payment for their work became even more of a logistical hurdle with check-cashing places closed. Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said he began to see the issue as important when Amazon started opening brick and mortar stores that didn’t accept cash more than a year ago. “Low-wage workers and people who are not working often are un-banked,” he said, using a term for people without bank accounts. “If there is not an option of paying in cash, they are excluded from commerce." The economic fallout caused by the pandemic makes this even more true now, he said. “More and more people either are not working or have low incomes,” he said. “This makes the situation for low-wage and no-wage workers even worse.” Read the original story at New York Daily News
The Counter In April, as meatpacking plants across the country continued to stay open despite emerging Covid-19 outbreaks among their employees, JBS USA made an announcement: It would secure free Covid-19 tests for all of the workers in its Greeley, Colorado plant—one of the largest in the country at 3,000 employees. At the time, just 36 employees at that facility had contracted the virus. In the next six months, another 258 would follow. Six would die. Now, a former contractor-turned-whistleblower has accused the Colorado facility of charging its uninsured employees $100 in cash for those tests. As first reported by The Greeley Tribune, an affidavit filed by the former contractor said she was hired to conduct Covid-19 screenings on site, and alleged that she was instructed to tell employees who were experiencing coughs to continue working. She also accused the company of neglecting to fix broken temperature-screening devices. In a separate affidavit, a second whistleblower corroborated many of her claims. read more at The Counter
Retail Workers Union is First Major Union to Endorse in 2021 Mayoral Race Herald Square – Today, in the first major labor endorsement in the race to be New York City’s next mayor, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announced its support for Comptroller Scott Stringer. RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum, representing more than 45,000 members in New York, cited Stringer’s career-long commitment to economic justice and proven track record delivering for workers to lead an equitable recovery for New York City. RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said: “RWDSU members put their lives on the line to keep this city running. From grocery stores to pharmacies to retail to food production, our essential workers took care of us all during the height of the pandemic - but continue to be ignored, underpaid, and overworked. That’s why now more than ever, we need a progressive leader in City Hall who will protect and advance the rights of working people. From combatting wage theft to fighting for robust workplace safety protections to championing paid family leave, Scott has always stood up for the city’s most vulnerable and marginalized workers. As a native son of Washington Heights, Scott knows that working people are the lifeblood of this city’s economy. Scott understands what we need for a just economic recovery and he has the values, the experience and the know-how to get it done. That’s why RWDSU is ready to get to work to elect Scott Stringer as the next Mayor of New York City.” Comptroller Scott Stringer said: “RWDSU is a fierce advocate for thousands of working families across New York City and around the country, and I am proud to have their support in this fight for our future. There is no recovery for New York City without guaranteeing the health, safety, and economic opportunity of the frontline workers that sustained us during the darkest days of the pandemic. We cannot go back to business as usual and reopen our economy the way we closed it. We need to fight for substantial employee benefits and hold employers accountable for worker safety - because no one should have to choose between their job and their health. We need to reimagine economic development in New York City to strengthen communities and create good-paying jobs. We need to create real pathways of opportunity to the middle-class, with affordable housing, education and job training programs that are actually affordable. These are the values I share with the hardworking members of the RWDSU - and I am proud to stand with them to make this city a fairer place to live, work and raise a family.” RWDSU’s endorsement follows support for the Stringer campaign from prominent leaders who represent the vanguard of New York City’s progressive movement, including: Congressmember Adriano Espaillat (D-Bronx & Manhattan) Democratic nominee for Congress Jamaal Bowman (D-Bronx) Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx) Sen. Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan) Sen. Brian Kavanagh (D-Brooklyn & Manhattan) Sen. Jessica Ramos (D-Queens) Sen. Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn) Assemblymember Robert Carroll (D-Brooklyn) Assemblymember Catalina Cruz (D-Queens) Assemblymember Maritza Davila (D-Brooklyn) Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (D-Manhattan) Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) Assemblymember Al Taylor (D-Manhattan) Democratic nominee for Assembly Amanda Septimo (D-Bronx) Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens) Scott Stringer grew up in Washington Heights in the 1970s. He attended P.S. 152 on Nagle Avenue and I.S. 52 on Academy Street. He graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Marble Hill and John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, a CUNY school. Stringer was elected City Comptroller in 2013. Prior to serving as Comptroller, he was Manhattan Borough President from 2006 to 2013 and represented the Upper West Side in the New York State Assembly from 1993 to 2005. He and his wife, Elyse Buxbaum, live in Manhattan with their two children, Max and Miles.
In a story at Reuters, RWDSU President Appelbaum comments on Amazon Prime Day and the increased risk to Amazon workers. --- A report by news site Reveal said the week around last year’s Prime Day was the most dangerous for injuries at Amazon’s fulfillment centers, prompting criticism by a prominent union. “Amazon’s Prime Day means more injuries and unacceptable levels of stress for its workforce,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said in a statement. “During normal times it’s a grueling period for workers. During a global pandemic it may well push workers beyond their limit,” he said. --- Read the story at Reuters here