Members of a local food workers union Wednesday praised the emergency actions taken by the Los Angeles City Council to protect the health and safety of grocery retail, drug store and delivery workers to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

“There is no business as usual right now,” said John Grant, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, which represents more than 20,000 food workers in Los Angeles.

“That means that workers need increased protections and flexibility in order to continue to keep the grocery stores open and everyone safe,” he said. “Staffing, hygiene, restocking have all changed overnight, and grocery and drug store staff have been responsive. We need measures to ensure they remain protected on the job.”

As businesses close, grocery and drug stores have remained open, potentially exposing workers unnecessarily to the virus, if proper health precautions are not taken, according to the UFCW.

The council passed several emergency motions on Tuesday, including one co-filed by Councilmen Curren Price and Herb Wesson that instructed the city attorney to draft an ordinance to ensure food workers have access to COVID-19 testing for free, provide them with flexible work schedules and allow employees to wash their hands at least every 30 minutes. It also seeks to provide the workers with access to protective equipment like masks, antiseptic wipes and hand sanitizers.

The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office is expected to present the draft ordinance to the council for a vote at next Tuesday’s meeting.

The Price-Wesson motion also directed the city attorney to prepare a draft ordinance to regulate delivery food companies, which would include mandating that companies provide their employees with the same protections. This also includes requiring them to register with the city and provide the number of delivery employees they have.

The council also voted to provide education for food delivery companies on proper food handling and to practice “non-contact” deliveries during the city’s coronavirus emergency declaration.

“As more people shelter in place, food delivery services will become even more essential and a critical piece of ensuring that the virus does not spread,” Grant said. “All food workers need the same protections and the public needs assurances (that) they have them.”

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