Union says Biden mask rules 'not enough' to protect workers

Union says Biden mask rules 'not enough' to protect workers
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The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) on Tuesday urged President BidenJoe BidenHaiti prime minister warns inequality will cause migration to continue Pelosi: House must pass 3 major pieces of spending legislation this week Erdoğan says Turkey plans to buy another Russian defense system MORE to enact tougher mask rules on employers to protect workers from the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.

The request comes after the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) released guidance last week recommending that retail stores and meatpacking facilities in areas of high COVID-19 transmission require their workers to wear masks, even if they are vaccinated against the virus.

The UFCW, which represents 1.3 million front-line workers, called the new guidance a “positive step.” But the labor union said that the Biden administration must go further and enact legally binding standards requiring businesses to mandate face masks.

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“The harsh reality is that current COVID safety guidelines are simply not enough and have left millions of essential workers to fend for themselves,” UFCW President Marc Perrone said in a statement Tuesday.

“What we need now is a clear enforceable COVID workplace safety standard that will protect America’s essential workers still on the frontlines of this deadly pandemic,” he added. 

In June, OSHA enacted new standards that require health care employers to mandate masks in facilities where COVID-19 patients are being treated, but the rules don’t extend to other businesses.

The UFCW said it has lost at least 483 front-line workers to the virus, with grocery and meatpacking workers making up the majority of that total. 

Last month, Perrone called on Biden to enact a national mask mandate after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that vaccinated customers and employees wear masks indoors in areas of substantial COVID-19 spread. 

Several major retail companies have reinstated mask requirements for employees regardless of whether they are vaccinated, including Walmart, Home Depot, CVS Pharmacy, Target, Walgreens and Publix.

Earlier this month, Tyson Foods announced it would require its employees to get vaccinated to prevent further COVID-19 outbreaks in its meatpacking plants.