Local 5 grocery and drug store industry members, along with members in food processing and agriculture continue to be on the front lines of the battle as we work to assure that the public has safe access to food, drugs and other supplies during this unprecedented crisis. Along with health care workers, public safety workers and others, they are literally putting their lives on the line as essential workers. Increasingly, they are being recognized as heroes and rightly so.
While continuing to provide critical services to the community, workers must also have the information, resources and legal protections that they need to assure their safety and health. Local 5, along with the UFCW State Council and other labor organizations, continue to work to assure that our members’ needs are met.
In addition to demanding that employers provide adequate measures to minimize the risk of infection to our members, Local 5 and the UFCW have advocated for government-mandated recognition and protection around a range of issues including safety and sanitation measures and expanded access to paid sick leave and family leave.
Local 5 has also negotiated additional hourly compensation for many of our members who continue to work in essential industries.
While much of the focus has been on our members who continue to work, many, including those employed by Macy’s, Green Apple Books and other non-food retailers have been laid off as their worksites closed. Local 5 has advocated for them as well, including a successful effort to secure expanded unemployment benefits.
One truth has become abundantly clear during this historic pandemic– retail and other workers who are represented by a union are more safe and secure, both personally and economically, than those who do not belong to a union. The horror stories from workers at companies like Whole Foods and Walmart are rampant. At the same time, Local 5 and other UFCW locals are receiving unprecedented numbers of inquiries about how to unionize from many of those same workers.
As union workers we have the right and responsibility to speak up for health protections that will make us and our community safer. Additionally, understand that the crisis is not an excuse for the employer to violate our contracts. Continue to demand proper breaks, overtime pay, scheduling rights and other contractually mandated benefits.
Rest assured that your union leaders and staff are focused on protecting your rights and your health and safety during this crisis. If you have concerns, questions or if you just want to talk about workplace issues, call your Local 5 Union Representative.
John Nunes
President, UFCW Local 5
A major North American supermarket company and the largest food and retail union in the United States have teamed up to push for grocery store employees to be designated as “first responders.”

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, or the UFCW, released a statement to Business Insider saying that it had partnered with the Albertsons Companies in “a joint national effort to seek a temporary designation of ‘extended first responders’ or ’emergency personnel’ for supermarket associates.”

According to UFCW, that designation would provide frontline grocery store workers with prioritization when it comes to the distribution of COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment. Albertsons Companies owns grocery chains like Safeway, ACME Markets, Jewel-Osco, Vons, Pavilions, and its namesake supermarkets. The UFCW represents the workers in these stores.

Vivek Sankaran, Albertsons Companies’ president and CEO, and Marc Perrone, UFCW International’s president, released a joint statement to state and federal government officials.

“The temporary designation of first responder or emergency personnel status would help ensure these incredible grocery workers access to priority testing, have access to personal protection equipment, like masks and gloves, as well other workplace protections necessary to keep themselves and the customers they serve safe and healthy,” Sankaran and Perrone said in a joint statement..
Like much about life today, the expectations on what UFCW could achieve for 2020 legislative in Sacramento is much different than the current reality. The legislature was suspended on March 17 when the shelter in place order went into effect. That means all the bills that were being debated were delayed and no further action could take place until the legislature reconvened on May 4. Timelines for bills have been compressed and bills pertaining the state budget and COVID-19 relief will be prioritized for the year.

Despite these challenges, UFCW has four bills that will be heard in the coming months. These bills are AB1360, Ting – AB3262, Stone – SB926, Hill – AB1417, Rubio. These carefully crafted legislative proposals set out to accomplish higher standards and protections for food delivery drivers (AB 1360), create stronger liability protections for consumers on Amazon’s platform (AB3262), ban cashless only retail (SB926) and make it illegal for unlicensed cannabis operators to advertise on online platforms (AB1417).

UFCW’s legislative agendas goals are the same every year. Your States Council takes up bills that do one of the following: protect current union members’ rights at work, protect union jobs, advocate for the expansion of workers’ rights in industries that UFCW represents or make it harder for non-union companies to compete.

Please watch this space for updates on the progress of UFCW’s agenda in Sacramento in the coming months.
In an effort to alleviate costs and stress to impacted members, Kaiser Permanente will eliminate member out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 treatment.

Oakland, Calif. — Kaiser Permanente has announced that it will waive all member out-of-pocket costs for inpatient and outpatient services related to the treatment of COVID-19, as of April 1, 2020. This is intended to alleviate the cost burden and stress on impacted members of paying for care.

“We want our members who need treatment for COVID-19 to be able to focus all their energy on getting well, not on worrying about how to pay for treatment,” said  Greg Adams , chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente. “With the hit to our economy and the job losses our country is going through right now, it’s more important than ever that we don’t allow the cost of treatment to prevent our members from getting the care they need.”

Kaiser Permanente’s elimination of member out-of-pocket costs will apply to all fully insured benefit plans, in all lines of business, in all markets, unless prohibited or modified by law or regulation. It will apply for all dates of service from April 1 through May 31, 2020, unless superseded by government action or extended by Kaiser Permanente. This waiver does not automatically apply to self-funded customers, but Kaiser Permanente will begin contacting all self-funded customers to encourage them to adopt this change.
Benefit will be available for diagnosed workers working outside their homes

Presumption will be workers contracted the virus at work; employers will have chance to rebut

SACRAMENTO – As California prepares to enter Stage 2 of the gradual reopening of the state this Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom today announced that workers who contract COVID-19 while on the job may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation. The Governor signed an  executive order  that creates a time-limited rebuttable presumption for accessing workers’ compensation benefits applicable to Californians who must work outside of their homes during the stay at home order.

“We are removing a burden for workers on the front lines, who risk their own health and safety to deliver critical services to our fellow Californians, so that they can access benefits, and be able to focus on their recovery,” said Governor Newsom. “Workers’ compensation is a critical piece to reopening the state and it will help workers get the care they need to get healthy, and in turn, protect public health.”
State Government Leaders Thank Local 5 Members, Provide Masks for
 Frontline Workers
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond appeared on Local 5’s Virtual Town Hall last week to thank members for their service during the pandemic. He answered questions, explained the impact of the virus crisis on public schools and discussed his efforts to supply school nutrition workers, food supply and grocery workers with protective masks, including thousands to Local 5.

Local 5 also obtained 10,000 masks from Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty. He applauded the Union’s members as “hard-working men and women putting themselves on the frontlines everyday.”

Please contact your union representative if you would like a mask.
Federal lawmakers are considering a bipartisan bill that would allow grocery and convenience store workers who earn less than $75,000 per year to avoid paying federal income tax on up to $25,000 in wages they receive between Feb. 15 and June 15, 2020. The bill, known as the Giving Retailers and Our Convenience Employees Relief (GROCER) Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives April 21 by Pennsylvania Reps. Glenn Thompson, a Republican, and Dwight Evans, a Democrat.

The legislation would allow the Treasury Department to extend the tax holiday for as long as three additional months if the national emergency President Trump declared in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak continues beyond the initial three-month period. Workers would be able to exclude up to $6,250 in income per month if the tax break is lengthened.​
After more than a year of bargaining, Local 5 members working for Safeway Stores have ratified a new contract covering more than 13,000 workers in the Union’s jurisdiction. 

Highlights of the agreement include retroactive and future wage increases totaling $1.75 an hour for experienced workers and above, health benefit improvements and increased pension funding along with the reactivation of the Individual Account Pension Plan funded at .20 per hour.

Important contract language changes include:

·        More full-time opportunities
·        Greater weekly hours guarantee for senior employees
·        Improved funeral leave benefits
·        Stronger job security through a change in progressive discipline standards

The bargaining process was long and difficult says Local 5 president John Nunes, as the company continued to push unreasonable and unworkable proposals to eliminate premium pay, introduce part-time meat cutters, increase progression steps and eventually replace food clerks with a new lower-paid classification.

“Our members’ ongoing resolve to get a fair deal and their overwhelming strike vote ultimately forced the company to modify its approach and move toward an agreement that we can all be proud of,” Nunes said.

The deal follows similar improvements bargained for members at Lucky/Save Mart and Nob Hill Foods and sets the standard for the remainder of the industry including Lunardi’s, Mollie Stones, Draeger’s and others. Negotiations with those employers are underway and tentative settlements are anticipated soon. For more information, contact your Local 5 union representative.
UFCW 5 members at Lunardi’s Market overwhelming approved the tentative agreement by an 89% margin on May 12, 2020. The agreement is patterned after other recent agreements with Local 5 major employers. The agreement provides for significant wage increases over a three year period with retroactive pay. Also included are significant improvements to health benefits for new and existing employees while also protecting retirees heath care coverage.
While most of the focus around the COVID-19 pandemic has been on grocery store workers, Local 5 members who work in salad and vegetable processing facilities and on farms and fields throughout Central California continue to work to keep healthy food on America’s tables. While their safety concerns are the same, resolving issues around social distancing present unique challenges.

The majority of the Union’s agricultural workers are employed at Mann Packing and Fresh Express, two large salad and vegetable processing facilities in the Salinas area. More than 500 members work at each facility, typically close together on assembly lines or other crowded work areas.

Although the transition to acceptable safety modifications was difficult, with ongoing input and insistence by Local 5 representatives, companies and workers have responded in a way that has successfully limited the spread of the virus, says Local 5 Agricultural Division Director Pete Maturino.

“The companies and our members have made a hell of an adjustment, but it is well worth it,” Maturino says. “When you see what is happening at food processing plants across the country, the fact that none of the members at our two large plants have tested positive for the virus is amazing and shows that they are being vigilant in public as well as at work.”

Workers at the facilities are tested for their temperature on each day that they come to work and are sent home if the reading is above a safe threshold. Companies provide personal protective equipment and most importantly, shields have been installed between workers on the assembly lines.

Some challenges remain however explains Maturino. As an example, masks are an issue for workers in the cold, damp environment of a salad and vegetable plant as moisture quickly condenses and makes the masks difficult to use. The union and companies are working together to find a solution as “nobody ever had to think about this stuff,” Maturino says.

Members who plant and harvest in the fields have adapted as well, wearing protective equipment, social distancing and limiting the typical 15 or more workers who work on or around a harvesting machine to a smaller number.

On a broader level for agricultural workers in general, while they like grocery workers are front line heroes, many are disadvantaged with respect to government benefits and services as a result of their documentation status. Fortunately, despite the Trump anti-immigrant rhetoric and actions, California continues to lead the way in assuring that all workers, regardless of their immigration status, are protected. The UFCW will continue to be a lead advocate in that effort.
Many of you may be aware that your local union has been busy organizing many new workers into UFCW 5. One industry that has been a target for organizing is the recreational cannabis industry. In 2019, UFCW 5 successfully organized five new cannabis companies. What looked like an endless potential for growth, both from the industry perspective and from the union perspective, came to a surprising halt as 2019 ended. The halcyon days of boundless investment coming into the cannabis industry dried up as the reality of the challenges in the regulated market came into focus.

These challenges include: a large number of unregulated operators competing with regulated operators, high taxes ( which can be up to 40% ), and a limited amount of retail sites being licensed in localities across California. Despite these challenges, in 2019 the regulated cannabis industry in California produced about $6.6 billion in sales. There is large room for growth, and though it may be uneven at times, thousands of jobs are projected to be created over the coming years in the legal cannabis industry and UFCW 5 will be there to ensure that the workers who work in the industry are able to share in the profits made.
As the COVID-19 crisis continued to spread, North Coast Cooperative food store employee and Local 5 Steward Stephanie Gurley knew that she had to take action. An accomplished seamstress who had recently purchased a high-end sewing machine, she joined a Facebook page that included volunteers that were making masks for “first responders”.

Using various fabric that she had on hand she began to work but quickly realized that her material, which included San Francisco Giants logos and other colorful designs, was likely too “busy” for police, firefighters and medical staff. Just as important, with recent updated guidelines recommending that the general population wear masks when out in public, she realized that no one was creating masks for frontline workers like her who worked in grocery stores.

“I knew what I had to do and went to work over the weekend creating masks for most of my nearly 200 coworkers at our two stores,” explains Stephanie.

Her fellow members were thrilled and grateful and nearly all are wearing the masks while on the job, initially to remind them not to touch their face, Stephanie explains, but after the release of the new guidelines, as part of an important health and safety protocol.

Word of Stephanie’s efforts quickly spread and thanks to donations of fabric from coworkers and distribution assistance from her Local 5 Representative John Frahm, she has begun to create masks for workers at Safeway and other grocery stores in Humbolt County. She’s also giving guidance to other volunteers with sewing skills who want to get involved.

“It’s great fun to see my work in action and it makes me happy and proud to help my coworkers and other Local 5 members keep themselves and our customers safe during this difficult time,” she says.
Local 5 President John Nunes will continue to host weekly Virtual Informational Meetings every Thursday until the stay at home order is lifted.

The meetings feature updates and information on what Local 5 and the UFCW are doing to assist members on a local, state and national level to protect their interests during the pandemic.

Members may hear the audio portion of the meeting by phone or join the video portion as well via computer or smartphone. Time is reserved at the end of each meeting to answer questions submitted in advance through the Union’s website or live via chat box if you join by computer.

In order to participate you must register in advance at ufcw5.org to verify your membership.
Now is the time for Members and their dependents to apply for the UFCW Local 5 and Labor Foundation for Union Workers 2020 Scholarship Program. Scholarships are available for Members or their dependents who are seeking higher education.

In order to qualify for a scholarship the applicant must submit a short essay (500 words) describing their   view on Labor Union's importance in today’s society along with their most recent official transcript. Members must be in good standing with UFCW Local 5. Submissions must be received, no later than  July 31, 2020.
In Memoriam
Arcelia Martinez, a one-year member who worked as a cashier at Food Maxx in San Jose, died in March at the age of 65 from complications related to the COVID-19 virus.

Arcelia leaves behind a husband, four daughters and six grandchildren as well as countless friends and coworkers.

The Local 5 family extends its sincere condolences to a Union Sister who is one of hundreds of front-line essential workers who have perished as a result of the virus.