COVID-19 and Rochester Labor
UFCW District 1
Interview with Anthony Cuchiarale (Union Representative, United Food and Commercial Workers District 1), 23 September 2020
The United Food and Commercial Workers represents workers in several establishments; in this region Tops supermarket employees comprise the majority with approximately one thousand members in ten stores. UFCW members working at other facilities manufacture aluminum cans and produce sausages/hotdogs.
Early on, there were difficulties getting the masks and hand sanitizers that were needed. As the pandemic escalated, the union held daily meetings with stewards to learn about shop-floor issues and established a COVID hotline for members with concerns.
Distancing markers were placed on supermarket floors and, after initial employer resistance, plexiglass was installed at points of customer service (registers, pharmacy, deli counters). Cleaning measures were stepped up in break rooms as well as on grocery carts and other points of customer contact.
The union sought to require that masks be worn by customers but failed to persuade management that it could be enforced. However, hazard pay was instituted for essential workers ($1.00 full-time, $.50 for part-time).
Members whose jobs involved daily contact with the public experienced high levels of anxiety.