California’s food and grocery workers will receive two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave during the coronavirus emergency, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in his Thursday press conference.
The statewide executive order applies to food sector workers, including grocery, fast food, delivery and farm workers of companies with more than 500 employees who are impacted by COVID-19, according to Newsom’s office.
Newsom said the order is intended to cover the shortfalls of the federal support system, which covers paid sick leave for employers with fewer than 500 employees.
“We are dealing with a gap in the system,” Newsom said.
Newsom said that the sick leave policy is intended to be supplemental, and won’t negate or interfere with companies’ existing sick leave policies.
The governor said that he hopes that having two weeks of guaranteed sick leave would alleviate the anxiety felt by workers in the food industry.
Newsom acknowledged that there are many grocery workers who, despite being classified as “essential,” said they felt like they were disposable because of their lack of support and protections.
“I want you to know you’re not disposable. You’re essential. You’re valuable,” Newsom said.
The announcement came amid concerns from grocery workers across the country who say their employers have not done enough to ensure the safety of workers essential to the nation’s well-being.
The move was greeted as good news by both the United Food and Commercial Workers union and the California Grocers Association.
The grocers association released a statement following Newsom’s announcement, saying that it “expands on safety efforts already underway and provides added comfort to valued grocery store employees and customers that a consistent set of best practices is being followed by all essential retailers regardless of size and location. It also provides greater clarity to store owners in what has been a rapidly evolving flow of information from local, state and federal officials.”
John Grant, president of UFCW Local 770, said in a statement that,”the governor’s executive order will help deliver a basic level of security for workers facing exposure to COVID-19 and to the community who depends on these essential workers for our food.”