TIGARD, Ore. — A union representing food and commercial workers in Oregon and southwestern Washington criticized Governor Kate Brown over the weekend after she received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 555 released a statement on Sunday, accusing Brown of cutting in line under the vaccine schedule that she helped to develop and implement.
Governor Brown received the vaccine on Saturday in an effort to prove that the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine was "safe and effective."
“Every week my office hears the question: If these vaccines are so safe, then why hasn’t Kate Brown gotten one? I want to reassure Oregonians that they should feel confident taking any of the three vaccines available to protect themselves and their loved ones," Brown said in a statement.
On February 26, Brown and state officials outlined the state's vaccine eligibility schedule for the coming months. Under that plan, adults 45 and older with underlying health conditions, seasonal farm and food processing workers, and several other groups become eligible March 29. Most frontline workers — including the bulk of retail and grocery workers — become eligible by May 1. The plan opens up eligibility to all adults 45 and older by June 1.
"Kate Brown said she does not qualify for the vaccine under her own plan," UFCW 555 said. "The Governor gets to choose how much interaction she has with the public. Our members and other retail workers do not. They cannot work remotely. They see hundreds of customers a day."
The union has been pushing for essential workers to be moved up on Oregon's timeline since the schedule was expanded at the end of February, saying that many workers are "livid" at being left out.
"Last week, Governor Brown 'thanked' grocery workers for showing up to work through this pandemic. She also thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to move these workers to the back of the line for vaccines, while she cuts ahead," UFCW 555 continued.
In the neighboring states of Washington and California, grocery workers have been placed higher on the priority list. California's Phase 1b — already eligible to receive the vaccine — includes "workers supporting groceries, pharmacies, convenience stores, and other retail that seels food or beverage products," along with restaurant workers. Washington's plan opens up eligibility to grocery store workers on March 22.