A labor union for grocery and retail workers says it fears the Biden administration’s decision to relax its mask rules for COVID-19 vaccinated persons will put its members at risk because unvaccinated persons will use it as an excuse to ditch their face coverings.
The United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 1.3 million frontline workers, said it will be impossible to tell who got the shots and who didn’t after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said vaccinated persons no longer need masks in most indoor settings.
“Millions of Americans are doing the right thing and getting vaccinated, but essential workers are still forced to play mask police for shoppers who are unvaccinated and refuse to follow local COVID safety measures. Are they now supposed to become the vaccination police?” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said.
The statement offered a dose of dissent after Americans largely hailed the revised guidance as a pivot to normalcy. The CDC said fully vaccinated persons should still wear masks in hospitals, prisons and on public transportation, however.
Some experts said the CDC’s move should incentivize people to get the shots so they can get back to normal, while others said it will let younger people get what they want — no more masks — without bothering to get vaccinated.
President Biden asked unvaccinated persons to keep wearing their masks, though said they won’t “go out and arrest” people who cheat.
UFCW said it wants some clarity on how the guidance should be implemented in stores.
“Vaccinations are helping us take control of this pandemic, but we must not let our guard down,” Mr. Perrone said. “As one of America’s largest unions for essential workers, UFCW is calling on the CDC and our nation’s leaders to clarify how this new policy will be implemented, how essential workers will be protected, and how these workers will protect the communities they serve.”
Companies are trying to navigate the new policy.
Trader Joe’s said it will allow fully vaccinated persons to go maskless, while places such as Home Depot and Starbucks are keeping mask rules in place for now.
CVS said it is “reevaluating” its in-store mask policy based on the CDC guidance, but “the safety of our employees and customers will continue to guide our decision-making process.”
Walgreens, meanwhile, said it will stick with masks because unvaccinated persons enter their stores to get the shots.
“As a destination for COVID vaccine and testing, we have decided to keep our current face-covering policy in place for the time being,” company spokesman Fraser Engerman said. “The safety of our team members and customers is our top priority and will continue to guide our decision process.”