March 21, 2023


Delighting home maniacs

Enforcing mask rules puts store workers at risk. Union boss wants to bring in muscle

Enforcing mask rules puts store workers at risk. Union boss wants to bring in muscle

Some of the biggest names in retail came to a decision on face masks in recent weeks, saying all customers must cover up if they want to shop in their stores — but it turns out, for many of those companies, the new rules don’t have teeth.

Walmart, CVS, Home Depot and others call it a requirement to wear a mask, but admit it’s not their policy to enforce it, CNN reported. The stores are worried about creating conflict between employees and customers.

Turn the wrong person away for violating policy, they may yell, throw a punch, or pull a gun and take a life, as has happened more than once.

But walking the aisles maskless, potentially exhaling coronavirus particles on other people and surfaces, can be a danger too. That’s the reason these companies instituted mask rules in the first place, they claimed, to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 for all shoppers.

“If they say they have a face mask policy and don’t enforce it, then they don’t have a face mask policy,” Stuart Appelbaum, head of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, told NBC.

Stores have “abdicated their responsibility” he said, leaving entry-level employees to enforce policy. The average essential worker isn’t trained or equipped to handle a customer enraged by being asked to wear a mask — a simple covering meant to save lives, now steeped in politics and conspiracy theory — and they need backup.

“I think that some employers are afraid of alienating customers,” Appelbaum said. “They don’t want to lose business. And so they don’t enforce it. I also think some employers know that, unfortunately, wearing a mask has become politicized and they want to stay out of that debate. It’s wrong. They need to enforce the rules.”

If stores are serious about masks, then they need to hire security to conduct enforcement, he told the outlet, and management needs to back them up and follow through on their policy.

“There have been so many crazy situations and strain they’ve been under. Our employees are not police officers,” Laura Aufleger, president of Oklahoma-based OnCue gas stations told local station KFOR. If customers ignore the posted signs, OnCue isn’t interested in pressing the issue with them.

Lowe’s won’t allow their workers to confront anyone regarding the company mask policy, not wanting to put “our associates … safety at risk,” the home-improvement chain told The Charlotte Observer.

The outlet went into a local Lowe’s to gauge how well the unenforced policy was working and counted at least a dozen unmasked shoppers enter the store in a 10-minute period.