Health and Safety, Law and Politics, New York, Retail, topslot

Retail Store Reopenings Have Union Concerned About Worker Safety

June 10, 2020

By Naeisha Rose

New York, NY – Mayor Bill de Blasio is contemplating moving up Phase 2 business re-openings, which would include retail stores, to June 22 instead of early July.

RWDSU has serous concerns about reopening retail stores later this month.

This possible move would help the restaurant industry reclaim some possible street space that was closed up because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

However, his long time adversary, Governor Andrew Cuomo is concerned about 10 hot spots in majority minority counties like Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx that still have high cases of the novel coronavirus. 

Unions that represent retail workers, like the RWDSU want stores to reopen, too, but are also concerned and want any renewal in business to be safe for those that they represent. 

“Is it, if you will, legally possible that we could get to phase two by the end of June? Yes,” said de Blasio on Tuesday. “We need to provide answers on that timeline. So, that means over the next week or 10 days, we have to fill in as many of those blanks as humanly possible. But I’ve been very clear, and I said it yesterday, that I’m not saying June 22nd, which is the earliest, you know, official date, according to State guidance, because I do not want to unduly raise expectations.”

Despite a citywide average infection rate of 19.9-percent six neighborhoods in the Bronx (Bathgate, 51%; Bronx Part South and Jerome Park, 50%; Morrisania, 43%; Highbridge and Pelham Gardens, 38%) have nearly double or higher infection rates, according to the Governor’s Office.

Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods (Queens Village and Flatbush, 45%; Brownsville, 41%; and Williamsburg, 40%) have more than double the rate of infections than the citywide average. 

Announcements for the Phase 1 reopenings of retail businesses for June 8, initially caused some confusion for union retail workers, according to Chelsea Connor, a spokeswoman of RWDSU-UFCW, but that only applies to small retail businesses doing curbside pickup and drop-offs. 

The RWDSU insists that before employers of union retail stores open, there must be proper social distancing in break rooms, bathrooms, during shift entry and exits and throughout the work day.

Employers should also provide enough proper protection equipment, access to rapid testing, screening for workers as they enter the workplace and that workers should have ample time to wash their hands and put on PPE during breaks, according to RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum.

RWDSU also wants workers trained on new store procedures, safety measures and equipment and the ability for workers to quarantine at home if they are sick, as well as get paid sick leave and affordable healthcare. The union also stresses the need to expand health departments for effective tracking, and mandatory masks for shoppers.

“We must not forget that as New York City begins re-opening we are still in the midst of extraordinary challenges,” Appelbaum said in a statement. “The safety of workers, customers and all New Yorkers must be our primary concern. This includes making sure workers have all the health and safety protections and preventative measures in place in their workplaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But it also means that all New Yorkers must continue to do their part including wearing masks in public, and especially when they are in retail stores.”

The Governor’s Office announced on Tuesday, that actor and SAG-AFTRA activist Sean Penn, brought 11 testing sites to some of the aforementioned hot spots through his CORE foundation. 

June 10, 2020

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