Grocery Union: Lift Plastic Bag Tax During COVID-19 Crisis

Mayor Lori Lightfoot thinks supermarkets are taking enough sanitary steps

Craig Dellimore
March 27, 2020 - 3:57 pm
Plastic Shopping Bag

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A labor union representing Chicago-area grocery store workers is asking that single-use plastic bag taxes be waived during the COVID-19 crisis, as a safety precaution.

Local 881 of the United Food and Commercial Workers says so-called reusable bags that people bring to the supermarket can transport the novel coronavirus and thus endanger store employees.

"Local 881 clerks and baggers are directly in harm’s way by having to handle hundreds of reusable shopping bags in an average shift. Other states have already implemented a temporary ban on reusable shopping bags and many of our employers are beginning this commonsense practice," a news release from the UFCW said Friday.

Chicago collects a tax of 7 cents whenever a customer requests a new plastic bag for their purchases. The tax was imposed to discourage the proliferation of plastic bags, which often end up being used once and thrown away -- or worse, drifting around city streets or in waterways.

Mayor Lightfoot reacted coolly to the idea of waiving the bag tax. She said supermarkets seem to be providing adequate sanitation safeguards at stores.

"We don't want to take a retreat from something that is a serious environmental problem," Lightfoot said.

The Iowa-based Hy-Vee supermarket chain has banned customers from bringing reusable bags into stores.