The Hazard ‘Isn’t Over’ - Front Line Workers ‘Urge’ The Public ‘To Support Them In Their Fight For More’ COVID-19 Protections
LaborPress.org Editor’s Note: Want to support Essential Front Line Workers? Wear a mask in public and push your U.S. Senators to back Hazard Pay and other vital protections for all those helping to keep the Nation running. Pictured above: Stop & Shop Employee and Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU)/United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 338 Member Christine Merola.
(QUEENS, NEW YORK) - Essential Workers, Labor Activists and Safety Advocates are increasing their demand for better protections for Front Line Workers in a new COVID-19 relief package that has already been approved by the House, but left in limbo since July 2nd when the U.S. Senate was last in session.
While Essential Workers have been working non-stop since the Coronavirus outbreak began early this year - U.S. Senators have been missing in action since at least the July 4th Holiday weekend.
The millionaire legislators are due back on July 20th, but will skip out, once again, on August 10th, and won’t return until September 8th.
That leaves Workers and their allies with a narrow window to convince lawmakers to vote for the most recent COVID-19 relief package, which includes additional stimulus checks, expanding the Paycheck Protection Program, Hazard Pay, testing and more.
So far, more than 88,000 Health Care Workers, 37,000 Meatpacking, Food Processing and Farmworkers, and 5,900 Grocery Workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
That’s in addition to outbreaks among Postal Workers, Transportation Workers and other Essential Workers, according to the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (NCOSH).
“To see our Senators ‘delay and go on recess while workers are dying is disgraceful - and an insult to the workers who have died, their families, and all those still at risk,’” NCOSH Co-Executive Director Jessica Martinez said. “This is ‘urgent.’ This is an ‘emergency.’ ‘It’s time for our elected representatives to stop insulting us and start representing us.’”
Some of the Workers that are at risk include 70,000 Stop & Shop Grocery Store Workers employed throughout the northeast, and represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU)/United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW).
The Front Line Workers recently saw their Hazard Pay cut, despite the surge of COVID-19 across the country.
“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,” RWDSU/UFCW Local Presidents said in a joint statement.
“Let us be clear, our Members didn’t sign up to be front line 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,” they said.
Christine Merola, a 30-year veteran of the supermarket industry, has worked the last five years as a Bookkeeper at the Stop & Shop in Howard Beach, Queens.
She drives nearly 15-miles to work every day and has been isolated from her children and elderly mom since March.
For her, the loss of Hazard Pay has been frustrating, to say the least.
“The Hazard Pay ‘was a wonderful plus’,” Merola says. “It was a ‘thank you’ for ‘appreciating’ us. ‘It made you feel like you were somebody, and also at the end of the week, it gave you a little bit to put away, God forbid, you did get sick.’”
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