Unions to Brown: Grocery store, transit workers need vaccine


Currently, grocery store workers and transit operators will become eligible for the COVID vaccine May 1st

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — All Oregonians 16 and older will be eligible to sign up for a vaccine appointment starting May 1st but some essential workers are feeling left behind.

Washington opened up COVID vaccines to frontline workers on Wednesday but Oregon has yet to follow suit. Currently, grocery store workers and transit employees won’t become eligible until May 1 along with all other people who are at least 16 years old.

Both the grocery store and transit unions told KOIN 6 News they’ve been pushing for their employees to be prioritized and don’t understand why Governor Kate Brown isn’t following federal guidelines on the vaccine rollout. The grocery store union said lumping their employees in with someone who can work from home just doesn’t make sense since they don’t have that option and must interact with hundreds of people on a daily basis.

Meanwhile, public transit is only getting more crowded as businesses continue to open up and operators don’t feel safe.

How to find a COVID vaccine in Oregon
How to find a COVID vaccine in Washington

“So they’ve been essential this entire time — told they’re essential, they’ve been thanked by their companies and thanked by the governor and now they’re just being told that, well, ‘thanks for being here, you’re with everyone else now,'” said MIles Eshaia with UFCW Local 555.

Shirley Block, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, called on Governor Brown to move transit operators closer to the front of the vaccine line as public businesses like restaurants reopen. “These folks need their vaccine,” she said.

Brown’s office and the Oregon Health Authority said they are currently reevaluating Oregon’s vaccination timelines and expect to have more information to share during a press conference on Friday.

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