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Tampa UPS Teamsters demand gloves, hand sanitizer to prevent COVID-19 spread

By Bill Aiman |
March 24, 2020
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Workers protest at Tampa UPS.
Workers protest at Tampa UPS.
A copy of the leaflet being distributed among Tampa UPS Teamsters.
A copy of the leaflet being distributed among Tampa UPS Teamsters.

Tampa, FL - UPS preloaders held a demonstration March 24 demanding disposable gloves, hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. The demonstration was part of an ongoing local and national fight by UPS employees to get the PPE they need to safely perform their job and prevent the spread of the virus to customers and the public.

The fight for proper PPE in Tampa began weeks ago when part-timers and drivers began asking management for gloves, hand sanitizer and regular sanitizing of high use areas like clock-in areas and delivery vehicles. These requests were met with excuses and flat-out denials. As the days went on more and more UPS employees requested PPE, leading to local UPS management stating they would provide hand sanitizer and regular sanitizations of high-use areas, but disposable gloves were absolutely out of the question.

The excuse used by management for why gloves would not be provided was that employees could still touch their face while wearing the gloves, rendering them ‘useless.’ The implication being that UPS employees are too incompetent to properly wear gloves and purchasing them would be ‘a waste.’

Tampa UPSers, however, continued to demand gloves, hand sanitizer and comprehensive sanitizing of all work areas. As the company continued to drag its feet and infections across Florida increased, UPSers knew they had to act.

“UPS is a Fortune 500 company making billions of dollars every year, getting us gloves is not going to hurt their bottom line. The refusal and inaction of corporate to address this virus is negligence pure and simple,” said Gary Neeld, a 19-year employee of UPS, “This virus has been in the United States since January and UPS has had all this time to figure something out. Anything they provide now is a day late and a dollar short.”

After the demonstration was called, local Tampa UPS management held a meeting with the organizers in an attempt to suppress the rank-and-file demand for proper PPE. Management continued to belittle the demand for gloves but stated that hand sanitizer was being shipped and that steps were being taken to sanitize the building. At the end of the meeting, management contradicted their earlier refusal and stated they would be looking into the possibility of gloves being provided.

Whether the company follows through with providing gloves and hand sanitizer to employees remains to be seen. Regardless of these claims, however, rank-and-file Teamsters are continuing the fight. A call-in to the UPS Ethics Hotline is planned for employees to express their concerns with management’s lack of action. The UPS Ethics Hotline number is 1-800-220-4126 and members of the public who don’t work at UPS are encouraged to call.

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