COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – Some unions are calling on Governor Mike DeWine to give essential workers access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Leaders with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) are representing more than 80,000 workers in the case. They’re asking DeWine to make workers in food processing, grocery stores, pharmacies and food distribution a priority.

UFCW leaders said there have been nearly 400 front-line worker deaths and 77,600 people exposed to COVID-19 among members.

The joint letter was signed by President Sonja Campbell (UFCW Local 17A), President Kevin Garvey (UFCW Local 75), President Carl Ivka (UFCW Local 880) and President Randy Quickel (UFCW Local 1059)

Read the full letter below:

Governor DeWine:

For nearly a year, workers in the food supply chain in Ohio have put themselves at risk to make sure that Ohioans have the food and medicine they need. They have been on the frontline of the pandemic exposing themselves to this deadly virus as grocery clerks, on busy meat packing lines and in our pharmacies. On behalf of the over 80,000 United Food and Commercial Workers Union members in Ohio, we implore you to prioritize essential frontline workers in food processing, grocery stores, pharmacies and food distribution for the Covid-19 Vaccine.

These workers deserve prioritization now and as a public health concern they should have access to the vaccine in Ohio. Other neighboring states such as Kentucky and Michigan have prioritized these workers and we ask you to do so as well.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) have recommended that states prioritize grocery, meatpacking, food processing, and pharmacy for COVID-19 vaccine access. Your administration must recognize the vital role these essential workers serve by ensuring that they are prioritized now regardless of their age and receive access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

To date, nationwide nearly 400 UFCW members have died of COVID-19, and 77,600 members have been exposed or gotten sick with the virus. With our members and their sacrifice in mind, we request that you reconsider including essential frontline workers throughout the food supply chain for eligibility in Phase 1C of Ohio’s vaccination plan.

We also ask that any plans to distribute the vaccine should include consultation with the companies and the union to make sure that our members have a sense of being protected during this process.

Protecting our country’s food workers is essential to keeping our communities safe and we look forward to working with you on this matter. 

Sincerely,

Sonja Campbell, President of UFCW Local 17A
Kevin C. Garvey, President of UFCW Local 75
Carl Ivka, President of UFCW Local 880
Randy Quickel, President of UFCW Local 1059
CC: Ohio Department of Health Director, Stephanie McCloud