Respect Our Supermarket
and Retail Workers
This Holiday Season
By Stuart Appelbaum, President
Retail, Wholesale and Department
Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW
Even in the best of times, the holiday
season is very stressful for workers at
retail stores and supermarkets. Big
crowds, irritable customers, hectic days and the
need for workers themselves to take care of their own holiday
obligations can all weigh heavily on workers’ shoulders this time of
year. In 2020, however, with the historic COVID-19 pandemic heading
toward a terrifying new peak amidst a second wave, this stress is going
to be exponentially worse.
This holiday season, we owe it to these workers to provide
comfort, protection, and understanding as they continue to put their
lives on the line so that we can all have the best 2020 holiday season
that’s possible under these difficult circumstances.
We’ve already seen what the pandemic has done to the front-facing
workers who have kept New York and the rest of the country moving
as we’ve been forced to dramatically change our lives to fight COVID-
19. A recent study in Boston shows that approximately 20 percent of
frontline supermarket workers tested positive for COVID-19, and that
these workers are up to 22 times more likely to test positive than the
general population. At least 108 American grocery store workers have
died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Retail workers have had a tough time too, with fewer hours, fewer
available jobs, and the added stress of the pandemic. The same study
reported that retail workers reported having increased anxiety and
increased cases of depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we struggle with this second wave, we are all concerned about
schools closing again and taking care of our families and children. It’s a
rough time for all New Yorkers, but for these frontline workers, it’s
even worse with the added stress of working through the holidays.
Employers need to give serious consideration to renewed “hero pay,”
bonuses that recognize the danger these workers face. These workers
also deserve additional paid time off in the event that they or someone
close to them tests positive for the virus. We need to provide not just
safer workplaces, but social support from employers and customers
for workers who are helping us through this crisis and a second wave
that threatens the progress we’ve made in New York.
And most of all, when we go to supermarkets and retail stores this
season, we need to be as considerate as possible to these workers
who will be a big part of making the 2020 holidays the best they can be
for our families. Let’s protect them by ensuring we are wearing masks
and doing it properly, by doing our best to social distance and keep our
hands clean, and by staying home if we aren’t feeling well. Most
importantly, let’s recognize what they are going through and do
everything we can to make this season as anxiety-free
as possible. This season, a little kindness will go a
long way toward ensuring these workers are able
to enjoy the holidays as much as we hope to
with our families.
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Schneps Media November 26, 2020 11