By ED FINKELSTEIN
Governor already denied grocery workers temporary first-responder status despite their COVID-19 exposure risk. Please help, call Parson.
With a growing number of grocery workers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, UFCW Local 655 has made an urgent request of Missouri Governor Mike Parson to immediately issue an executive order requiring that people coming into retail stores must wear some form of facemask.
This the second call by Local 655 for the governor to take action to protect retail workers providing crucial essential services on the front lines of the pandemic:
- Parson finally signed an executive order last week giving police and fire fighters the long overdue critical “first responder” designation, making them eligible for unemployment pay if they contract the coronavirus or are quarantined.
- Local 655 previously asked that tens of thousands of grocery and pharmacy workers across the state – who are on the frontline every day providing customers with an essential service – be considered “temporary” first-responders – with access to testing, treatment and protective equipment, childcare assistance and easier access to unemployment benefits should they become ill. But the governor has thus far refused.
NATIONAL CALL FOR FACEMASKS
Noting that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has already recommended everyone wear a face covering when in public, Local 655 President David Cook has urged Gov. Parson to do the same thing in Missouri.
“This step will greatly reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, both among grocery workers and the general public,” he said.
“Grocery store workers continue to need your support,” Cook emphasized in a letter to the governor. “They are worried about contracting COVID-19 and they are frightened that they will come home and infect their families. These workers are a lifeline to their communities. They are serving your constituents across Missouri. However, the reality is that these workers are at great risk.
“While some in grocery store management have instituted additional safety policies like Plexiglas barriers at cash registers and signage asking shoppers to maintain social distancing, a number of shoppers are ignoring these warnings and putting workers at risk.”
REQUIRE FACE MASKS IN STORES
With no action from the state, Schnucks and Dierbergs have begun providing face masks to their employees, instituted a bonus “hazard pay” system, and established a program to pay workers if they are forced into quarantine – all steps Cook applauded.
“I am calling on you to update your recent ‘stay-at-home’ order to require that all Missourians wear some kind of face covering when in a grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail establishments that are open because of the essential services they provide,” Cook concluded in his letter. “Your office has both the authority to issue this order as well as the broad reach to ensure that this safety message is spread across the state.”
RESPONSE TO RETAIL WORKERS: ‘NO!’
Last week the Governor again failed to protect retail workers across the state.
At his briefing Parson was asked about mandating wearing mask in retail store and his response was, “I don’t think it is the place of the government to mandate masks.” On Thursday Schnucks President/CEO David Peacock appeared at the Governor’s daily briefing and said, “Schnucks is urging ALL shoppers to shield their face will shopping.”
The governor refused to even agree with Mr. Peacock in urging the public to shield their face while shopping, Cook said.
“If, during a global pandemic it’s not the job of the governor to protect workers, then what exactly is the job of the governor?” Cook responded.
“I am pleading with every Labor Tribune reader to call the governor, and have their family and friends call the governor, and demand he protect retail workers before it is too late.” Call 573-751-3222, leave a comment at governor.mo.gov/contact-us OR sign a petition at ufcw655.org/covid.
PROTECTION FOR POLICE AND FIRE FIGHTERS
Parson issued an order last week directing the Missouri Department of Labor to implement an emergency rule establishing that if first responders like police, fire fighters and EMTs are diagnosed with COVID-19 or are quarantined they will be assumed to have contracted the virus in the line of duty, therefore making them eligible for workers’ compensation.
Jeff Roorda, business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, called the governor’s direction “a game changer.”
“The governor has done a good thing for our cops today and we can’t thank him enough,” Roorda said. “Our officers are risking their own safety protecting our communities during this unprecedented crisis. Now, the governor has stepped up to protect us,” Roorda said.
Mark Woolbright, 2nd District Vice President of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), said, ”Our members are relieved that the governor finally acted.”
Noting that hundreds of fire fighters across the state have already been quarantined, Woolbright said, “This brings peace of mind to everyone, and although there is a presumption in the law that should cover us, this makes it clear… everyone is relieved.”
Woolbright said IAFF is pushing governors around the nation to do the same thing.
“Only a handful have stepped up so far,” he said, “but they all should.”
PARSON TIED FOR SECOND-TO-LAST IN COVID-19 RESPONSE
A Microsoft News poll April 2 asking Americans how they felt their governors and President Donald Trump have responded to the coronavirus pandemic found Missouri Gov. Mike Parson tied for second-to-last place among the states.
Parson tied with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at 53 percent. Only Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey polled lower at 52 percent.
The average rating for governors was 72 percent positive.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker exceeded that with a 75 percent approval rating.
Topping the ratings were Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, at 85 percent, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, at 84 percent.
President Trump’s average approval rating was 45 percent.