Union workers holding rally to urge Tops to reinstate “hero pay”, ban customers without masks


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–Members of UFCW Local One will be holding a rally Thursday evening with WNY Labor, elected officials, and community organizations outside the Tops at 2102 Elmwood Avenue.

They are protesting the elimination of “hero pay” and are urging Tops to create a “no mask, no service” policy for customers.

“Tops and every other grocery store chain in the Buffalo area has ended “hero pay” for frontline grocery workers. The extra pay has ended but the threat of getting exposed to the Covid-19 virus has not,” Frank DeRiso, International Vice President and President of UFCW Local One said.

DeRiso also says over 238 UFCW members have died from COVID-19 in the past 100 days, and now is the time for Tops to fully protect its workers and UFCW members.

The rally will be from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

UFCW Local One represents 17,000 food and drug retail members, food processing, nursing home, hospital, and transportation workers.

In response to the news of the rally Tops released this statement this morning:

Since the onset of COVID, we have witnessed first-hand the extraordinary efforts of all our Tops associates. We are very grateful for those efforts and have been pleased to offer and extend flexible schedules and more than $10 million dollars in temporary bonus pay and cash awards to those working on the frontlines in our stores and warehouses. This pay continued for as long as nearly every other food retailer. The purpose of this temporary extra pay was to recognize our associates for their hard work during an unprecedented surge in demand and customer traffic, all while Tops was implementing new practices and protocols to help ensure a safe shopping and working experience. As we’ve entered into the final phase of the Governor’s reopening plan for our areas, we are returning to pre-COVID levels of decreased traffic and customer demand in our stores. In the meantime, Tops has invested over $5 million dollars in protective equipment and extra sanitation.

In regards to masks, thankfully our experience thus far has been that the large majority of our shoppers have been complying with the mandate. When we observe that someone is not wearing a mask, a disposable mask along with a copy of the mandate is provided to them and we have found this approach to be very successful as many customers simply have forgotten their mask at home or in their vehicle. The safety of our associates is our number one priority. Like most other retailers, we do not want our associates getting into a confrontation with a shopper who elects not to wear a mask for reasons other than a medical exemption.

Troy Licastro is a digital content producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of his work here.

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