For Immediate Release: August 20, 2020
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UFCW Local 770 Celebrates Advancement of Senate Bill 729
Bill Would Codify Governor Newsom’s Executive Order Requiring Two Weeks of Quarantine Leave for COVID-19 Related Illness
Covers Nearly 3 Million Food Sector Workers in California
LOS ANGELES — Grocery workers represented by UFCW Local 770 applaud the advancement of Senate Bill 729, after the Assembly Appropriations Committee advanced it to the Assembly floor for a vote.
SB 729, authored by Sen. Anthony Portantino, would codify Governor Newsom’s March Executive Order requiring two weeks of paid leave for COVID-19 related illnesses or quarantine for nearly 3 million food sector workers in California. It would also ensure that food workers be permitted to wash their hands every 30 minutes, or as needed.
Codifying paid leave for essential food workers will further protect and standardize enforcement of sick leave for workers who have been on the front lines throughout a global pandemic. It will ensure there are adequate workplace safety rules in place, regardless of the stage of reopening or stay at home orders, as this pandemic shows no sign of disappearing.
“It should be the standard that people working in the food and drug retail industries have access to paid sick leave so that we can stay isolated and reduce the spread of the virus,” said Laura Orantes, a cashier who works at a Rite Aid store in South Central Los Angeles. “I was ordered to quarantine twice. The first time I isolated myself because I was exposed to an infected coworker; the second time I had to quarantine because I got the virus. The second time around, I struggled so much as I wasn’t able to make ends meet.”
According to data compiled from the UC Berkeley Labor Center, essential workers are majority Latinx (55 percent) and Black (48 percent) who have no option of working at home and are therefore more at risk of exposure to coronavirus. It is also known that COVID-19 rates of infection are higher among workers on farms, meatpacking and food processing plants, and grocery stores, as written about in the LA Times and that cases have been on the rise.
By passing SB 729 into law, food sector workers, who often are not represented by a union, will be able to properly quarantine and recover, without fear of workplace retaliation or losing their livelihood in the process, ultimately keeping all Californians more safe.
“By advancing SB 729, and the protections it provides to frontline workers who are primarily immigrants and people of color, we can give workers a necessary tool,” said Kathy Finn, secretary-treasurer of UFCW Local 770. “It’s essential that essential workers have the leave time they need to recover. It’s a matter of dignity and public health that in the middle of a pandemic we ensure essential workers the entire state relies on for our food have paid time off to keep them safe and reduce the spread of the virus.”
About UFCW Local 770:
UFCW Local 770 represents over 20,000 grocery workers in Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties. Overall, the union represents more than 30,000 members in the retail food, retail pharmacy, meatpacking and food processing, laboratory, and cannabis industries.