After Months of Union Advocacy, Dr. Bonnie Henry Issues a Mask Mandate for Anyone Entering a Retail or Grocery Store

In a win for workers, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced today that anyone entering a grocery or retail store must wear a mask if they are medically able to do so.

In late October, nearly 2,000 members sent letters of support to Dr. Henry asking for a mask mandate for anyone entering a grocery or retail store. The union continued pouring pressure on the Public Health Office, the provincial government, and on individual retailers to do the right thing and protect workers by requiring mask-wearing for everyone entering a grocery store. We sent letters to every retailer where we have members in BC, followed up with Dr. Henry, and copied every politician in a position to create this change.

Throughout the pandemic, UFCW 1518 has heard from members who were speaking out in favour of mandatory mask-wearing in stores and in-home care settings. Shop stewards and health and safety committee members were inundated with mandatory mask requests, which they brought to the attention of the employer and the union.

UFCW 1518 redoubled its efforts to secure a mask mandate after thousands of members told us in a health and safety survey that they felt unsafe at work and wanted more action taken to protect them. Many reported aggressive and abusive behaviour from customers when they were asked to maintain distance or follow other COVID-19 protocols while shopping.

UFCW 1518 members have been required to wear masks while at work since the summer. While many grocery and retail businesses had already required anyone entering the store to wear a mask, several major retailers still allowed customers to shop unmasked.

“We thank Dr. Henry for taking this important step to protect frontline workers from COVID-19,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “Grocery and retail workers have been doing their part to help flatten the curve on the pandemic, and they deserve the strongest health and safety protections possible.”