Editorial: Work Safe In Every Way

As if 2021 hadn’t already thrown enough at us with the Delta variant, a Hurricane Henri fake-out, and supply chain issues, most of your employers are still grossly understaffed.  In years past, many of these short staffing decisions were made intentionally by an executive with a desire to cut the most tangible expense on their ledger…labor.  This time it’s a product of a labor market shortage more than some bean counter with an oversized eraser.  How’s that for an outdated reference???  Virtually all our stores are missing multiple people, and turnover rates have been crazy again.  Some of your employers have told us that some of the job hunters out there are just looking to bounce from Company to Company in search of what they think is the best deal.  Everyone in this business knows that you can’t be successful in the supermarket business without trained, quality help in all departments.  Now with many of our younger members heading off to college the pinch is getting even tighter.

I mention this because it’s as important now as ever to make sure you are working safely and carefully.  Many of our members have a habit of trying to do more with less or cutting corners just to get the job done faster.  Please don’t lose sight of what’s most important, you & your safety.  Not only are you dealing with a heightened Covid risk, but with less help many simple issues are being overlooked or not taken care of.  You need to make sure that you are working safely no matter what the help situation is in your store or department.  You should never work with broken equipment or use substandard U-boats or tables.  If anything in your work area is dull, wobbles, leans, or is missing a part, it’s a safety risk and shouldn’t be used.  I really don’t care what your manager or supervisor says about it, safety protocols are there for a reason.  That’s why your Union Representatives and Membership Servicing Rep’s do safety reports in all of our stores.

Working safely also includes making sure to perform all inspections/cleaning of refrigerated boxes to ensure they are in acceptable working condition.  Working in a box (no matter what the department) that has a door with a broken safety release, has torn or damaged diamond plate on the floor or loose metal sheeting on the doors (or walls) is foolish and can easily result in an injury and could cause you to lose time on the job.  Will your Comp check look the same as your regular check?  Probably not.  Have you ever had to fight with a doctor’s office about unpaid medical bills from a Comp claim?  I assure you it’s no picnic!

Why would anyone want to work in a box that has more snow on the ceiling than light fixtures?  Do you like getting hit in the head with snowballs?  What about the boxes out there with mold growing on them (inside or out)?  How many of you have recently seen a produce (or other perishable) box, back-room wall, or case vent with that ugly green or dark staining on them?  Yes, I know that not all mold is “black mold”, but mold is a type of fungus, and that fungus has no place in your work area.  NONE of these things are acceptable working conditions and all of them should be reported to the Union immediately.  ESPECIALLY if you’ve already reported them to your management team and nothing has been done about it.  There is a right and wrong way to do things and cutting corners, especially because there isn’t enough help, is plain wrong.

I can’t blame your employers for the help issues out there.  To the best of my knowledge, they are all trying (many unsuccessfully) to find more help for their stores.  That being said, management will still have the same expectations they had before.  They will certainly push you to finish your job, produce excellent conditions and to do anything else in the building that needs to be done.  Please keep in mind that cleaning and sanitation are equally important safety issues for your safety as well.  Obviously Covid has put a spotlight on sanitizing high touch areas, washing your hands, and not touching your face while you’re at work.  But the safety of your job also depends on you completing sanitation protocols, always packing out with proper rotation, and accurately taking and recording your inventory.  You may not think about the safety connection with this until you get suspended for failing an inspection or turning in another terrible inventory number because you just rushed through it.  Just like working at a safe pace and only using fully functioning equipment, taking the time to do all the facets of your job right is equally important to your workplace safety.  You should protect your paycheck the same way you protect your health and safety.

Please remember if you choose to cut a corner as opposed to working safe, you could be putting yourself and your job at risk.  Putting your management team on notice is a very important first step in getting safety and equipment issues addressed.  That should always be followed up by a call/email to your Union Representative just to ensure the situation has been reported.  If you try to figure it out on your own, you may never get a resolution to your issue and that could come back to haunt you.  Your Union Representatives stand ready to make sure your workplace is as safe as it should be.  That includes not allowing you to be held accountable when there aren’t enough hands around, or hours in the day, to get the job done right.

You may be reading this and thinking, that will never happen to me, I’ve been doing this job for decades and never got hurt.  The odds say the older you get; the likelihood of an injury or illness increases.  Or you could be thinking my manager/supervisor is cool, they know the deal.  Are they?  Do they?  Or is it more likely that they also have a job to do and if/when something goes wrong, whether they know about it or not, they will hold you accountable?  I’m not a wait and see kind of person, and I encourage you not to be either.  We are here, and always will be, to assist our members and to do everything in our power to get home to your families the same way you left them.  I hope you had a nice Summer and I wish you well for the fall!  MyUnionHasValue