Newsom signs executive order providing paid sick leave for food industry workers during pandemic

Posted at 5:41 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 20:42:33-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Thursday California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order meant to provide relief for essential food industry workers.

The executive order allows for two weeks of supplemental paid sick leave for workers who have contracted COVID-19, been exposed to the virus, or those who are subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation related to COVID-19.

"The people that grow our food, the people that pick our food, pack our food, deliver our food, cook, serve and sell our food, that's the food chain in the state of California," said Newsom.

"It's important that our workers have the backing of the community knowing that if they are sick or can't get to work, that they're going to be okay," said Todd Walters, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 135.

UFCW 135 represents employees at chains like Ralphs, Albertsons, Gelson's and more.

"We represent 12,000 members here in San Diego County," said Walters.

Walters was thrilled to hear Newsoms announcement Thursday afternoon, saying it was needed here in San Diego County.

"It's about time," he said. "There's been cases where somebody has been exposed they're afraid to say so because they're afraid of losing that paycheck and then if that person does become sick, which has happened, we now have other exposures."

Federal relief provided similar benefits for employers that had less than 500 workers, Newsom said this executive order will fill the gap.

"We don't want you going to work if you're sick and we want to make sure that you know that if you're sick it's okay to acknowledge it and it's okay to let your employer know and still know that you're going to get a supplemental paycheck," said Newsom.

The order also calls for workers at food facilities to wash their hands every 30 minutes to increase consumer safety.

Ron Fong, President and CEO of the California Grocers Association, released a statement Thursday reading in part: “Today’s announcement expands on safety efforts already underway and provides added comfort to valued grocery store employees and customers that a consistent set of best practices is being followed by all essential retailers regardless of size and location. It also provides greater clarity to store owners in what has been a rapidly evolving flow of information from local, state and federal officials."