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Tampa UPS Teamsters win demands for gloves, hand sanitizer and masks

By Jerrica Hoey |
April 11, 2020
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Tampa UPS Teamsters petitioning for PPE.
Tampa UPS Teamsters petitioning for PPE. (Fight Back! News/staff)
PPE won by Tampa UPSers.
PPE won by Tampa UPSers.

Tampa, FL - UPS workers in Tampa have won their campaign for hand sanitizer, masks, gloves and other PPE. This campaign was a hard-fought win against management, who initially refused to accommodate for worker safety. Concerned preloaders did not buy management's excuses on why PPE was unnecessary, and waged a successful informational campaign, rallying workers together to fight for their safety.

Management's initial response was an outright refusal to provide gloves, hand sanitizer and masks and was against the sanitizing of high-use areas. As more workers started to voice their concerns about safety during the growing COVID-19 pandemic, management relented a bit saying they would sanitize high-use areas and provide hand sanitizer, but masks and gloves were still out of the question. The particular argument against providing gloves - that it would be pointless as workers would still touch their face while wearing them - was a particularly stinging jab at their perceived incompetence of workers.

Workers kept up their demands after this initial refusal and called for a demonstration to help put UPS's lack of response in the spotlight. Prior to the demonstration happening, management called a meeting with organizers of the demonstration, attempting to belittle demands and intimidate workers. Nonetheless, the demonstration continued as planned, and was a great success in getting the word out and bringing attention to the issue.

After this, management started bringing in hand sanitizer and sanitizing surfaces. Gloves were also starting to be provided, though only small sized gloves were available, rendering most workers unable to use any. Not satisfied with management’s foot dragging, concerned workers set up a table outside the work entrance, informing coworkers of the inaction of management and gathering signatures for a petition demanding full proper PPE. The petition was popular and many workers shared their safety concerns.

Workers gathering the petition signatures took a number of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to co-workers. They remained behind the table, maintained social distancing recommendations, wore masks and gloves, provided hand sanitizer and had a number of pens that were routinely sanitized with disinfecting wipes.

“We wanted to make sure we were as safe as possible while tabling. We don’t want to potentially spread the virus while fighting to get the PPE we need to keep us safe from it,” said Elizabeth Kramer, one of the UPSers involved in the fight.

In the days following, management received masks, but there was no ready access to them or gloves. Workers had to ask their supervisor for them while already working, sometimes having to wait for an hour or more, risking possible exposure to COVID-19. Workers decried this uneven distribution of PPE that was still putting them at risk. As of this week, management finally capitulated, handing out masks and properly sized gloves to workers at the entrance of the building daily.

“This is a significant win for all workers fighting for safety on the job. We now have gloves, masks and hand sanitizer on the job as a result of workers standing together,” said Bill Aiman, a rank-and-file Teamster at UPS. “This win will help give us momentum as we move into our next campaign in the face of coronavirus: the fight for hazard pay.”