Charting our course through the end of COVID
by President Mark Ramos
We’ve all been through hell and back, so now what?
It’s understandable if we feel a bit fatigued and bewildered as the COVID-19 pandemic finally winds down and brighter days appear to be ahead. After all, we are emerging from a year and a half of confusion, anger, loss and pain.
We remember the panicked shopping at the stores — the shortages of toilet paper, cleaning products, canned food and cereal.
We remember the overflowing hospitals and desperate calls for masks and gloves for medical personnel and our members.
We remember employers putting out statements saying customers have to wear masks to shop, and then telling employees not to enforce the policy. This put our members in a difficult and unacceptable position.
We remember — and still endure — the angry disputes over the nature of the virus, the importance of science, the wisdom of measures taken by public officials to protect our communities, and even the fundamental obligation to be courteous and respectful of one another.
Most devastatingly, we remember watching helplessly as friends and family members were sickened by a disease that robbed them of breath and even life.
By nature of the industries we serve, UFCW members continue to be exposed to the public in enclosed spaces, and we remain at risk as long as large numbers of people fail to receive their vaccinations because of “hesitancy” or downright refusal because of misconceptions about the vaccines.
Now that the CDC has changed its guidelines on mask wearing and the public is in a rush to get back to normal, our members find themselves in new, uncharted territory. California appears to be heading rapidly toward removing most of its mask mandates, possibly as early as this month.
Our union’s top priority always has been protecting the health and safety of the members. That’s why we are asking our counties and our governor to continue protecting our members through legislation. In the past year we pushed for laws to secure sick pay, PPE, sanitizer and cleaning stations, and hero pay. We lobbied hard to put our frontline workers at the front of the line for vaccinations. And we don’t intend to let up.
While communities are eager to get back to normal, we need to do it safely and with our members’ safety in mind.
Priority in negotiations
Safety will always be a top priority for us in negotiations with the employers as well. This was one of our priority issues in talks with Food 4 Less and will continue to be at the top of our list of contract proposals handed across the table to each employer.
Talks with CVS and Kaiser negotiations are already under way and Rite Aid to start soon. Safety is a prominent topic of negotiations, along with wages, pensions and contract language. For example, if a member still wants to wear a mask, we believe management should not try to stop him or her from doing so.
Our members at CVS, Kaiser and Rite Aid will need the support of our entire union, just as they’ve given their support to their sisters and brothers in our negotiations with Food 4 Less.
We’ve made great progress together and we will continue doing so. The work we do as a union will move forward, whatever comes our way.
Solidarity among our members will always be our greatest strength. We have built strong alliances with other unions and community partners, but what matters most is standing together as one union regardless of our employer.
Those with economic and political agendas will always try to use misinformation to divide us, because they are more interested in gaining power than keeping you safe. They know that rumors are cheap and can spread rapidly, causing division and panic. You can rely on your union for accurate information, because our responsibility is to you, our members, and not some other person or entity.
We are union strong and union proud.
So, let’s get busy!