Missouri’s largest private-sector union and the grocery chains employing their partners are making significant changes to their Health & Welfare benefits to provide additional protections to workers adversely impacted by the growing coronavirus outbreak Local 655 President David Cook announced Monday.
United Food and Commercial Workers represents about 9,500 partners in the eastern half of the state. The overwhelming majority of these workers are employed at grocery stores like Schnucks, Dierbergs, and Straubs.
After extensive conversations with employers about their mutual desire to protect their hard-working employees during these uncertain times, the following changes have been made by the UFCW Local 655 Health & Welfare Fund:
- All copays for coronavirus tests will be waived.
- Increase in short-term disability benefits for partners that become ill with COVID-19.
- All partners who become ill with COVID-19 will maintain 90% of their current pay.
- Union dues and fees will be waived for all new employees for 45 days to allow employers to hire extra workers .
- New telemedicine benefits for all partners with zero out-of-pocket costs.
AGREED TO POLICY ADJUSTMENTS
The changes come on the heels of multiple policy adjustments already agreed to by major employers and Local 655 including, but not limited to:
- Adjusting hours at some locations to allow for extensive cleaning and disinfecting.
- Relaxing collective bargaining rules governing union-protected work.
Cook said the changes were the result of the mutual desires of both the union and their major employers.
“These sweeping changes are the result of a joint effort to make sure we are protecting the men and women that are keeping these stores open,” Cook said. “They are helping families get the supplies they need, but they have families of their own, and we need to provide them with everything we can to ensure their health and security.”
Local 655 and local grocery chains also are asking that the public respect the work being done by thousands of employees across the region and continue to be patient.
“These employees don’t control the supply chain,” Cook said. “If something isn’t on the shelves, they aren’t keeping it from you, and they are working incredibly hard under stressful conditions. We owe them our gratitude.”
TEMPORARY WORKERS NEEDED
Finally, because of the high levels of business currently being done at local stores across the region, Schnucks, Dierbergs, and Straubs are all encouraging any workers that have been laid-off by their employers at other businesses to apply for temporary work at Schnucks, Dierbergs, and Straubs in order to provide needed manpower.