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Grocery workers, meatpackers and health care workers call for increased safety standards

A union representing more than 1.3 million workers is calling for more transparency and safety enforcement as COVID-19 cases climb.
Credit: AP
In this March 6, 2017 photo, Tyson packages of frozen chicken are displayed at a supermarket in North Andover, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — One of the nation's largest unions representing a variety of essential workers says it's time for some safety standards that are enforced across the board.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union represents more than 1.3 million workers here in Florida and across the country, including those who are on the front lines in grocery stores, meatpacking plants and health care. 

The union president says 238 members have died, and nearly 29,000 have been infected or exposed. At least 82 grocery workers have died. There have been at least 65 deaths linked to meatpacking plants.

“America's food, meat packing and health care workers should not be the ones that have to do the enforcement. It should be the companies and the government,” UFCW President Marc Perrone said.

Credit: United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
The union represents 1.3 Million workers across the country.

The union wants employers to pay $15 dollars an hour and reinstate Hero or Hazard pay. They're also calling on governments to require masks. Members also want to see a National Public registry for businesses with 1,000 workers or more to report their case numbers on a monthly basis to provide more transparency.

He points to some of the country’s largest retailers hiding data, citing privacy laws.

“Some of our nation’s biggest companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger are still keeping us in the dark and refusing to tell the American people how many of their workers have died or been exposed to COVID-19. Simply put, it is impossible to hold the government or corporate America accountable when they hide the true impact of this outbreak," Perrone said.

On Thursday, Walmart announced hourly associates in Florida received cash bonuses in their paychecks today. A company spokesperson said the company has given nearly $1 Billion in two cash bonus, an early quarterly bones payout and other initiatives.

A worker at a Tyson Foods plant in Indiana said the union has helped negotiate an extra $30 per shift for workers at his plant. Dennis Medbourn says he’s one of the 900 who tested positive for COVID-19, and the plant was shut down.

Before it reopened, plexiglass was installed in various locations and cleaning measures were increased. Now there’s an on-site clinic. Temperatures are checked when workers come through the gate.

“There are still people in the plant that are at risk of getting it, which means there are still people coming into work every day in fear,” Medbourn said.

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