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02/02/2021

Seattle Opens Up Vaccinations for Some Grocery Workers

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Seattle Opens Up Vaccinations for Some Grocery Workers
According to the Seattle mayor’s office, the city recently partnered with UFCW 21 to vaccinate 400 of their most vulnerable members in the coming days.

The early stages of the U.S. rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has earned scant praise. That said, grocery workers in Seattle are probably more likely than most to give the effort a thumbs-up.

According to the Seattle mayor’s office, the city recently partnered with UFCW 21 to vaccinate 400 of their most vulnerable members in the coming days. The Seattle Fire Department Mobile Vaccination Teams (MVT) will vaccinate Phase 1B, Tier 1 eligible UFCW 21 grocery store workers who, due to their work environment, are at an extremely high risk of exposure to COVID-19.

“In their first weeks in the field, our Mobile Vaccination Teams have provided relief and security to hundreds of our most vulnerable Seattle residents. As the city receives additional doses, we can vaccinate more workers and elders, who are some of our highest risk communities without equitable access to the health care system,” said Mayor Jenny Durkan. “We know that Seattle’s road to reopening and economic recovery starts with vaccinations, and Seattle is committed to significantly increasing the vaccination rate and ensuring the vaccine is easy and accessible to our city’s workers and residents. Even as more of us begin to get vaccinated, we’ll need to continue wearing masks, practicing social distancing and following all public health guidance.”

This feel-good news from the Northwest comes as the city is on the verge of mandating $4-per-hour pay increases for many grocery workers until the pandemic eases — a move generally favored by labor, but which has attracted criticism from food retailers. For instance, PCC Community Markets — among the nation’s most influential independent grocers — recently urged Durkan to not sign that pay proposal into law.

The grocer not only used thin margins as a reason, but said that grocers have invested significant funds into pandemic-safety and even vaccination efforts, which have cut “margins to the bones,” according to CEO Suzanne “Suzy” Monford of PCC Community Markets.

As for the vaccination effort, the mayor’s office said that many older UFCW 21 grocery store workers have been unable to get vaccinated due to the lack of supply and the lack of vaccinations available in pharmacies located in the stores where they work.

“Grocery store workers have risked their lives for all of us. They need to be vaccinated as soon as possible. As of last weekend, the variant of the highly contagious COVID has been detected in our state — we are in the most dangerous moments of this pandemic, as we race against time to get vaccinated. Grocery workers have been and continue to go to work every day with a deep fear in their hearts that they will get sick and die, or unthinkably, bring this home to those they love,” said Faye Guenther, president of UFCW 21.

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