By Charles Wowkanech
President, New Jersey State AFL-CIO
Since when is keeping food on New Jersey’s tables not essential work?
More than 100,000 members of the United Food & Commercial Workers in New Jersey have been on the job around the clock since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, stocking grocery store shelves as quickly as items flew off them. Politely encouraging shoppers to maintain social distance. Cleaning and sanitizing and then cleaning again for the safety of customers, even as these UFCW members lacked enough personal protective equipment themselves.
UFCW members put themselves in harm’s way, and employers such as Stop & Shop, ShopRite, Acme, Foodtown and a host of other grocery stores in New Jersey did the right thing by negotiating hazard pay premiums for these unsung frontline heroes.
But now, even as the coronavirus infection rate is creeping up again, Stop & Shop is doing the wrong thing. Stop & Shop has stopped paying its workers their negotiated COVID-19 hazard pay premiums. That’s unthinkable.
Stop & Shop must restore hazard pay immediately for these frontline heroes.
The work is still hazardous, maybe even more so. The workers are still essential. New Jerseyans need to eat.
It is a disgrace for a company that made hundreds of millions of dollars during this crisis to fail to recognize the value of the workers who served their communities in a time of uncertainty and contributed to the company’s bottom line.
Our fellow union members of the UFCW are the people who show up to work during hurricanes and blizzards to make sure our families’ basic needs are met. Our fellow union members of the UFCW are the people who continue to report to work every day during this unprecedented global outbreak.
Yes, they continue to be on the job for every person in New Jersey.
The New Jersey State AFL-CIO, a labor community of 1 million-plus people in this state, urges our brothers and sisters and all working families to tell Stop & Shop – and any other supermarket owners who do not value their workers – to pay the UFCW members the hazard pay they contracted for. Restoring hazard pay will go a long way toward showing these workers the recognition and respect they have earned.
If you shop for groceries in New Jersey, honor the people who keep the doors open and the stores stocked and safe. Voice your concerns to Stop & Shop or any other employer who deems these frontline heroes less than worthy.