The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) has joined with more than 100 health experts to call for public mask mandates in all 50 states to help stem the spread of COVID-19 as infections surpass 3 million, putting front-line grocery workers, and the shoppers who go to their stores, at risk.
In a full-page ad that ran in the Sunday print edition of The New York Times on July 12, UFCW and the health experts urged governors, federal legislators, and the White House to take immediate action to make wearing masks in public mandatory nationwide. A recent report found that the majority of governors haven’t enacted such mandates.
“In every grocery store in America, frontline workers are continuing to put themselves in harm's way to make sure our families have the food we need,” noted UFCW International President Marc Perrone. “Without immediate action, these brave workers will continue to get sick and die. The science is clear – masks are the most powerful tool we have to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep both workers and shoppers safe.”
Added Perrone: “With governors in the majority of states refusing to make masks mandatory, millions of Americans are needlessly being put in danger every day. It’s time for elected leaders to pull their heads out of the sand and make masks mandatory in all 50 states to protect these brave workers and the millions of families they serve.”
Along with UFCW, the open letter to elected leaders was signed by 100-plus health experts from such respected organizations as the World Economic Forum, MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Yale and the National Academy of Sciences.
“Research suggests that over 200,000 American COVID-19 cases have already been averted thanks to the mask requirements covering much of the US, and it is estimated that requirements in the rest of the country could add over $1 trillion dollars to the US GDP,” observed Jeremy Howard, a distinguished research scientist at the University of San Francisco and a signatory to the letter.
In a previous New York Times ad campaign this past April, the union teamed up with Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons to demand that grocery workers be classified as first responders.
The move to mandate masks comes as many food retailers have already made masks a requirement for shoppers and workers in their stores, and as store associates have encountered resistance from some customers upset at being required to cover their faces.
In other retail mask news, Seattle-based Starbucks will be requiring all customers and employees in all of its company-owned U.S. cafes to wear face coverings, starting July 15.
Washington, D.C.-based UFCW is the largest private sector union in the United States, representing 1.3 million workers in health care, grocery stores, meatpacking, food processing, retail shops and other industries. The union has members in all 50 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.