Stop turning retail workers into mask police, union leader says

As more major U.S. retailers require their customers to wear masks, a growing number of store employees are being confronted by unruly and sometimes violent customers who refuse to comply. Now, the head of the largest union representing retail workers said businesses have unfairly burdened their employees with enforcing mask-wearing policies, to the detriment of workers and customers alike. Employers bear the responsibility to provide a safe workplace, said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, who called for companies to hire security staffers to enforce a store’s mask policies or task members of management with the role. “Employees should not be expected to put their safety and their life on the line for the employer. That’s an unreasonable expectation,” Appelbaum told The Washington Post on Thursday. read more here

Genesis Abington Manor Employees Win in Pennsylvania

Nursing home workers at Genesis Abington Manor in Clark’s Summit, Pennsylvania scored another win by joining RWDSU Local 262 in late July. The unit of 57 Licensed Practical Nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants won their NLRB election, and their union voice. They join hundreds of other Genesis workers who have joined the RWDSU in New Jersey and the Keystone State. The workers at Abington Manor began organizing after years of losing benefits, stagnant wages, and unaffordable health care coverage. LPN Kacey Walsh said “When I started the union campaign it was because I saw where the facility had weaknesses and how this was affecting the floor staff. The workers here do an amazing job together and truly love the residents, and it shows in the care they receive. In order to best serve the residents, we knew we needed a voice on the job, and the dignity and respect that comes with joining a union.” “The organizing committee of workers at Abington Manor truly did an amazing job,” said RWDSU Organizer Paul Bazemore. “They organized in a matter of weeks, during the difficult circumstances of the COIVD-19 pandemic. They deserve a strong contract, and that’s what they are going to get.”

RWDSU STATEMENT: ATLANTA’S MANDATE MASKS BE WORN IN PUBLIC IS CRITICAL TO PROTECTING WORKER’S LIVES

RWDSU STATEMENT: ATLANTA’S MANDATE MASKS BE WORN IN PUBLIC IS CRITICAL TO PROTECTING WORKER’S LIVES (ATLANTA, GA) – The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) is in full support of Atlanta, Georgia Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms Executive Order 2020-113, which  requires all persons to wear a mask or a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth within the City of Atlanta. In response to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s announcement today banning Georgia's cities and counties from ordering people to wear masks in public places, Edgar Fields, President of the Southeast Council of the RWDSU issued the following statement: “We unequivocally support Mayor Bottoms’ Executive Order 2020-113. This critical order requires everyone to wear a mask within the City of Atlanta, Georgia. We urge everyone, despite our Governor’s senseless attempts to stop this order, to wear a mask in all public settings. It is our only known, and only real defense against COVID-19 taking more lives of the ones we love. It's simple, wearing a mask saves lives. “We have suffered far too many losses across our union to COVID-19. The statistics show that people of color have a higher COVID-19 mortality rate. Our members have and will continue to die from COVID-19 unless we wear masks – period. In the early days of this virus it was unclear how we could best protect ourselves, our families, and our communities. Now that we’re several months into the COVID-19 pandemic, it has never been clearer that wearing a mask is our greatest defense. Governor Kemp’s announcement today puts our members – the essential workers who have carried this nation through this crisis – lives on the line. It is disgusting, and we cannot and will not stand for it.” ###

STOP AND SHOP UNILATERALLY ENDS ESSENTIAL PAY UNIONS TO FILE CHARGES

Today, 14 United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) local unions in New York, New Jersey and New England which collectively represent 70,000 Stop and Shop grocery workers across the United States, condemned the company’s slashing of workers wages during the COVID-19 pandemic.   At midnight on Saturday, July 4, 2020, just ahead of a major profit-making holiday weekend, Stop and Shop formally ended essential pay for thousands of workers across the Northeast. The company walked away from negotiating with the 14 Local UFCW unions and unilaterally cut workers wages and ended the essential pay they need to continue to work under hazardous conditions amid the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.    14 Local UFCW unions condemned the company’s hypocritical behavior of one day “thanking” workers and the next cutting their pay at a time while the company continues to make significant profits. The company’s refusal  to bargain with the unions highlighted their disregard for workers’ welfare.    “It is inexcusable that a company that has made extraordinary profits during the COVID-19 crisis would think of ending the critical pay our members need.    “Let us be clear, our members didn’t sign up to be frontline heroes in a health crisis the likes of which we’ve never seen, but they rose to the call and fed America. The essential pay they received during this crisis isn’t ‘appreciation’ as Stop and Shop suggests, but critical pay to ensure their families were safe amid the crisis we’re facing -- a crisis that is far from over.    “The COVID-19 pandemic continues and our members also continue to practice regimented disinfection protocols just to go to work everyday and ensure their families are safe when they return. During the pandemic their jobs have fundamentally changed. They are more stressful and more physically demanding. The emotional and mental labor expended by our members hasn’t lifted, and their essential pay shouldn’t either.    “To treat essential workers as disposable after what they’ve done to keep our dinner tables full, at a time with such grave uncertainty about our future and when the company continues to rack up large profits is disgraceful. Our unions cannot and will not stand for any company fleecing our members -- Stop and Shop needs to reinstate essential pay for our members now.    “Stop and Shop’s decision to leave the table the very same day that New York rolled back the critical Phase 3 implementation of indoor dining shows just how hazardous and dangerous our members’ indoor work environment continues to be. Stop and Shop abjectly refused every possible solution presented by our collective unions, in violation of our members rights under our respective Collective Bargaining Agreements, and we will be filing charges with the National Labor Relations Board.”    The above statement is jointly signed by 14 Local UFCW unions, which represent a combined 70,000 workers in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island:   Frank Deriso, President UFCW Local 1   Brian String, President UFCW Local 152   Richard Abondolo, President UFCW Local 342   Tim Melia, President UFCW Local 328   John R. Durso, President Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW   Salvatore Ferraino, President UFCW Local 360   Ronald Petronella, President UFCW Local 371   John R. Niccollai, President UFCW Local 464A   Max Bruny, President UFCW Local 888   Mark A. Espinosa, President UFCW Local 919   Harvey Whillie, President UFCW Local 1262   Fernando Lemus, President UFCW Local 1445   Tyrone C. Housey, President UFCW Local 1459   Robert Newell, President UFCW Local 1500  

US Meat Production Nears Pre-Coronavirus Levels But Workers Still Getting Sick

Read more here Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents poultry plant workers, told the Journal workers don’t feel the situation has improved even though the industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on safety measures. Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest meat processor, set up clinics at its facilities and still, cases exploded, the Washington Post reported.  

Racial and economic justice forever intertwined

This appeared in The Amsterdam News by Stuart Appelbaum President, RWDSU In America—and indeed the entire world—an unprecedented and long overdue conversation on racial justice is happening. We are seeing sweeping changes in the way people from all sorts of different backgrounds view ingrained racial injustices and the consequences that result for people of color. It’s a societal reckoning the likes of which we have never before seen. And while the changes being made around the country show that the protest movement is making a significant difference, it’s important that we also focus on the economic issues that contribute to systemic racial injustice in the U.S. It’s clearer than ever that to achieve true racial justice, we need to address the underlying economic conditions under which so many people of color live. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the poultry processing industry, a low-paying, dangerous job performed almost exclusively by people of color. The poultry workers who feed everybody from California to here in New York face blinding fast line speeds, extreme temperatures, dangerous, repetitive cutting motions that often lead to debilitating injuries, and for the majority of them, who do not have union representation, no voice to help make their jobs and their lives better. Poultry workers have gone so far as to call themselves “modern day slaves,” and say management only cares about corporate profits at the expense of the health and welfare of their workers. The COVID-19 crisis shed a harsh new light on the treatment of workers at these “modern day plantations,” with dozens of workers dying and thousands infected. And while unions like the RWDSU have been able to improve working conditions in union plants—forcing implementation of better social distancing, more PPE, and policies that encourage sick workers to stay home—the industry as a whole has failed terribly when it comes to prioritizing safety during this pandemic. And that must change. America needs to start treating all its workers—including people of color—with dignity, not just in poultry, but in all industries across the country. That’s just one of the many reasons that we support the Black Lives Matter movement. We embrace this movement because it is the morally right thing to do, and long overdue. Unions fight for economic equality and for racial equality. We know that these two things are intertwined, and we can’t have one without the other. The RWDSU has a proud history of fighting for racial justice. Today, we are proud to be part of the BLM fight. All workers, from poultry workers in the South to car wash workers here in New York, deserve economic and racial justice. We will not stop fighting until they are achieved. Stuart Appelbaum is the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. www.rwdsu.org, twitter: @sappelbaum

Amazon memo reveals Covid-19 was more prevalent in Minnesota warehouse than surrounding areas

Coronavirus infection rates at an Amazon warehouse in Minnesota were far higher than the surrounding community, according to an internal memo obtained by CNBC. The memo contradicts Amazon’s previous messaging about infection rates. Top executives including Dave Clark, senior vice president of global operations, have said infection rates at warehouses match or are lower than the cities they’re in.  Amazon has repeatedly declined to disclose how many of its workers have been infected by Covid-19. Read the story at NBC News here

U.S. Meat Plants Are Deadly as Ever, With No Incentive to Change

Throughout the industry this spring, bonuses of steak and cash were instrumental in keeping workers on the job as the coronavirus rampaged through U.S. meatpacking plants. The payouts forced people on the lowest rung of the economic ladder to assess their pocketbooks against the health of their families and themselves. Yet when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told JBS and other meatpackers to stop offering incentives based on attendance, lest employees come to work sick, the companies didn’t listen. Why should they? The CDC has no legal authority over the industry, so even in the grip of the pandemic, adherence to its directives was purely voluntary. “CDC was requested to do initial inspections and offer recommendations,” wrote Jason McDonald, a CDC spokesman, in an emailed response to questions. Any follow-up inspections would have to be done by other agencies, he wrote. Asked about the CDC’s report, JBS said bonus eligibility was not tied to sick days. “Throughout this pandemic, we have prioritized team member health and safety above everything else,” a spokesperson wrote in an emailed response. Read the rest at Bloomberg

Union: We cannot allow Amazon to set health and safety standards

Amazon warehouse workers in New York are getting help from unions in their fight for better pandemic working conditions. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union is joining with European unions that have been battling Amazon over warehouse conditions there. These unions are joining lawmakers including Rep. Pramila Jayapal in asking a court for an injunction. Together they are asking a district court in New York to compel Amazon to improve working conditions inside warehouses. “People are getting sick now and dying in the Amazon facilities and we can’t waste any time," said Stuart Appelbaum, who leads the leads the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). “Greater health and safety protections need to be provided by the wealthiest man in the universe.” read more at KUOW

NYC congressional Dems tag onto lawsuit accusing Amazon of putting Staten Island workers in coronavirus danger

Six congressional Democrats from New York City are providing legal ammunition for Amazon workers on Staten Island who are suing the retail giant over allegations that it put them at risk of contracting coronavirus, the Daily News has learned. The Big Apple lawmakers, led by Rep. Nydia Velazquez, filed a so-called amicus brief late Wednesday in Brooklyn Federal Court that offers official congressional support for the lawsuit, which was brought by three workers at Amazon’s Staten Island fulfillment center, where at least one employee has died from COVID-19. read more at the NY Daily News