The crowd restrictions imposed in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are having a major impact on workers – in strikingly different ways.
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 655 President Dave Cook said his members in area grocery stores are working overtime to keep stores stocked and sanitized for an anxious public looking to stock-up and hunker down during the health crisis.
“My members are working more hours than they’ve ever worked in their life,” Cook said. “They’re under a lot of stress. They’re on the front lines. I appreciate any support anybody can give them because they’re feeling the pressure right now. They can’t go home. They’re working 10, 11, 12-hour days trying to provide the public with the food they need.”
TEMPORARY WORK IF YOU’RE LAID-OFF
Cook said he was working with Schnucks and Dierbergs to help get temporary workers into the stores to help with the increased workload for the next 45, and possibly 60, days.
“If you have members who are getting laid-off, send them to Schnucks and Dierbergs,” Cook said. “I’ve worked out with the companies that we are waiving union affiliation during this time. We’re not going to be charging any initiation fees or any dues for any temporary employees just to try to get these stores the staffing they need.”
That could be a silver lining for other workers, many of whom have been laid-off due to closures and crowd size restrictions.
“Three-quarters of my members are now not working,” said Kevin McNatt, president of UNITE HERE Local 74, which represents workers primarily in the hotel, casinos, sport venues and food service industries.
Joe Rudd, president of Stagehands (IATSE) Local 6, said the current restrictions limiting events and venues to no more than 50 people had effectively shut work down for his members.
“That just killed us,” Rudd said. “We’re dead.”
Nancy Cross, vice president of SEIU Local 1, said 800 of Local 1’s members in the entertainment industry are currently unemployed, while members who are porters in the area grocery stores are currently being reassigned to stock duties and working overtime.
Laborers Local 110 Business Manager Don Willey said permits for housing starts are being held up because of crisis. Some trades members are being forced to quarantine if a case of coronavirus is reported on their jobsite.
$5 FOR THE FIGHT
Pat White, president of the St. Louis Labor Council, said the Council’s $5 for the Fight, which helps union members facing financial hardship, is currently in good shape but is expected to receive a flood of requests for help make house and car payments.
“Some locals are going to be affected more than others,” White said. “I’m anticipating, especially after a couple of weeks, we’re going to start getting some calls.”
White encouraged union members who can afford it to donate the fund to help their brothers and sisters in need. Donations can be made by check or online.
- Mail a check or money order to “$5 for the Fight,” c/o St. Louis Labor Council, 3301 Hollenberg Drive, Bridgeton, MO 63044. Please include your union affiliation.
- Make an online donation by visiting labortribune.com/5-for-the-fight.