655 Partners rising to the task

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By DAVID A. COOK
President

In recent weeks, the entire nation has been seeing sudden and sometimes frightening changes. As COVID-19 — otherwise known as the coronavirus — spreads across the country and the world, we are being forced to confront new challenges. Many of us are suddenly looking closer at our behavior and the behavior of others.

You or someone you know has almost certainly already been impacted by COVID-19. Schools are beginning to close, which presents challenges for working parents. Office workers are learning to work from home, and large events are being cancelled to limit the transmission of a deadly disease.

In this time of anxiety and uncertainty, I want to take a moment to call attention to the workers that are on the frontlines trying to fend off this deadly virus.

RETAIL WORKERS ON THE FRONT LINES
Of course, there are our healthcare workers, doctors and nurses are doing heroic work, caring for the sick and putting themselves at risk. Our first responders face a similar challenge. We can’t forget the incredible way they are serving their communities.

I’m also talking about you and the millions of American workers that are in retail. Local 655 represents about 9,500 partners, and the overwhelming majority of them are working in grocery stores. Most of them work at Schnucks, Dierbergs and Straubs.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell any of you what has been happening in your local grocery stores. Customers are flooding the stores for critical supplies as they prepare to stay home in self-quarantine for extended periods of time. They are buying supplies that are critical for their families, and they are doing so in numbers that we’ve never seen before.

At the center of all of this chaos and worry are our Local 655 partners who are working longer hours under stressful conditions.

YOUR UNION IS LOOKING OUT FOR YOU
I could not be more honored to represent the hard-working men and women of Local 655. And while I could not be prouder of you, I also know that this is a time when workers need their union more than ever.

We are currently working with our employers and our Health and Welfare Fund to institute new work rules during these times. Many of our partners are rightfully worried about what could happen if they become ill, or if their store closes due to these times. We are very close to making these critical changes, but as I write this column, that deal has not been finalized

The proposed changes will help our partners remain safe and financially secure if the worst happens, and it will help our employers continue to do the important work of providing essential food and other products to the community.

NON-UNION WORKERS AT MERCY OF EMPLOYER
Sadly, millions of American workers do not have a union, and many of them work in jobs and industries that require them to work closely with the public and potentially expose themselves to COVID-19. They are forced to rely on their company doing the right thing: protecting their pay and benefits if they become sick, instituting common-sense measures to clean and disinfect their workplace and more. Some companies have done the right thing, and they ought to be applauded for it. Others are failing, and their workers could suffer for it.

As this situation continues to evolve, there will be more uncertainty. We don’t know how this illness will spread, or how our leaders will continue to respond to it. We don’t know if someone we love, or ourselves, will become sick.

Stand together brothers and sisters. Here’s to Union Solidarity during these terrible times.

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