Oklahoma Grocery, Retail Union Urging Statewide Mask Mandate


Tuesday, September 22nd 2020, 9:21 pm
By: Erick Payne


TULSA, Okla. -

A group that represents grocery and retail workers wants the governor to require everyone in Oklahoma to wear a mask.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Oklahoma Union said workers are being put at risk in towns where there is no mask mandate, like rural areas.

They also said not having a statewide mask mandate is putting also putting customers and entire communities at risk.

Fitz Jennings is the political director for United Food and Commercial Workers. They have 2,500 union members in the state and many of them are at homeland grocery store locations across Oklahoma. He said the lack of a statewide mask mandate puts their workers at risk.

Jennings said about 74 union members have tested positive for COVID-19 but didn't say if they got it while at work.

"When the pandemic first began, Oklahoma was a little late to the party,” Jennings said. “We also represent workers in North Texas. Texas issued a statewide mask mandate some months ago, which did mitigate some of the risks for our workers.”

In Oklahoma, each city decides if it's going to require masks. He said that's why in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, the UFCW is not as concerned as in the more rural areas.

"You know, in Custer County, in Garfield County, in Kay County where I was today, many customers neglecting to wear masks," Jennings said.

Governor Kevin Stitt's office said the governor's position on mask mandates is well known and has not changed. He has repeatedly said he doesn't believe in ordering a statewide mandate but is leaving it up to city leaders to make decisions best for their areas.

Stitt and state health officials do, however, urge people to wear masks in public and said it is helping reduce the spread of COVID-19.

"If it's good enough for Texas and some of the other states in the union, it should be good enough for Oklahoma," Jennings said.