I want to keep you updated on how your union is working on your behalf to advocate for you to stay safe at work. Rest assured, myself and Secretary-Treasurer Paul Crandall, and our entire staff of UFCW Local 663 are working all day to provide you answers and guidance as we all find out more about how COVID-19 is affecting workplaces and our communities.
I am working on the federal, state, and local levels–including working closely with employers, to find the most effective policies and answers. This includes working with elected officials, the CDC, WHO and state guidelines to provide you with the most up to date information for you.
Grocery Store Workers Should BE Critical First Responders
I have been working with Governor Walz’s office to have grocery store workers reclassified as “critical first responders.” Because Minnesota is under a peacetime emergency. This would make our members in retail grocery the same as hospital workers, police, EMT, and fire fighters. If successful, this would qualify our retail grocery members to the same level of benefits/protections the current list of “critical first responders” receive.
This would open up a number of benefits for membership, such as the ability to send members’ school aged children to daycare for temporary childcare options.
Nationally, we are also working with UFCW International President Marc Perrone to reclassify grocery store workers as critical first responders. Watch for Local 663 breaking updates as we learn more.
Members with School-Aged Children May be Eligible for Childcare
In the meantime, on March 16, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued an executive order to ensure workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have full access to unemployment benefits. The executive order makes applicants eligible for unemployment benefits if:
- A healthcare professional or health authority recommended or ordered them to avoid contact with others.
- They have been ordered not to come to their workplace due to an outbreak of a communicable disease.
- They have received notification from a school district, daycare, or other childcare provider that either classes are canceled or the applicant’s ordinary childcare is unavailable, provided that the applicant made reasonable effort to obtain other childcare and requested time off or other accommodation from the employer and no reasonable accommodation was available.
DEED’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) program assists workers who can’t work, have their hours reduced or lose their jobs as a result of the pandemic. The UI program is prepared and ready to assist these workers. If you are unemployed or have your hours reduced, you may apply for unemployment benefits by visiting www.uimn.org.
From the DEED website: if you had to quit your job due to a lack of child care, you may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits. If you made reasonable efforts to find alternative child care and you requested time off/other accommodations from your employer, but your employer denied those requests, you should apply for Unemployment Insurance benefits.
Union Health and Welfare To Cover 100% Cost of COVID-19 Tests
Eligible union members now have more COVID-19 coverage. The Board of Trustees is very concerned about the wellbeing of you and your family. Events regarding the spread of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) are being closely monitored and the Board is proactively working to adapt the Plan to address your medical needs concerning COVID-19. As your Union President, I also serve as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
Read more about additional changes to benefits to help our union families during the COVID-19 outbreak here: https://663benefits.com/.
I recommended these changes to the Board. These changes were voted on and passed unanimously.
Ongoing Resources for Workers During COVID-19 Outbreak
In our ongoing efforts to keep communication lines open and information available, here is a list of useful websites during these uncertain times that you and your family may find helpful.
- UFCW Local 663 website
- Minnesota Department of Health website
- Center for Disease Control website
- World Health Organization website
- State of MN COVID-19 & Unemployment Insurance Benefits website
Union Events Postponed/Cancelled
Please check out our website calendar to see events postponed or cancelled.
We Will Continue to Reach Out
We are committed to reaching out and keeping you updated as your union family. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me or your union representative about questions you may have. We continue to work together for the safety of our union family and for our communities.