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36 UPS employees test positive for COVID-19 in Tucson hub

Outbreak puts workers and public at risk
By staff |
May 23, 2020
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Tampa, FL - At least 36 employees at a UPS hub in Tucson, Arizona have tested positive for COVID-19. The news comes as many states, including Arizona, are beginning to reopen more commercial business. Three of the 36 employees are currently being treated in intensive care. Because of the lack of proper testing at the facility, the number of total cases could be much higher.

Teamsters Local 104, which represents workers in the Tucson building, released a statement May 22 calling on UPS to close the building until proper safety practices can be implemented. The local also stated that UPS could have prevented the outbreak by acting sooner.

"Instead of taking the possibility of COVID-19 outbreaks seriously, the company waited too long to require workers to wear face masks and gloves, enforce social distancing rules, conduct temperature and health screenings of workers, require COVID-19 testing of employees, or work with public health authorities to conduct systematic contact tracing. Additionally, UPS has refused to stop pressuring workers to come to work, even if they are feeling sick, or provide workers and customers with updates on the status of the outbreak," said Karla Schumann, secretary-treasurer of Local 104.

Due to the number of workers who are out sick and increased package volume, UPS is sending supervisors from Utah, Colorado and New Mexico to work in the Tucson building, raising concerns about interstate spread of the virus.

"Drivers here are worried that our supervisors are coming back and spreading COVID further. The last thing we want is a super-outbreak like we see in Tucson. It has been a struggle to force management to abide by safety precautions, I don't want to see my coworkers unnecessarily endangered," said Gabriella Killpack, a package car driver and shop steward in Salt Lake City.

UPS’ putting profits before public health is not just limited to Tucson; it represents a national trend for the company. In Tampa, UPS management has not done much to prevent the spread of the virus.

“They’re not requiring face masks to be worn in the building and are forcing workers into close quarters. I’ve been filing grievances on management for these safety violations and they’ve retaliated by isolating me and other concerned workers,” said Elizabeth Kramer, a part-time UPSer in Tampa. “All it takes is one person to get the virus for the whole building to become a hotspot for infections.”

For many workers at UPS, these dangerous working conditions further highlight the need for hazard pay. Denis Taylor, the director of the Teamster Package Division, has refused to negotiate hazard pay for working Teamsters.

“Major non-union companies have given their workers hazard pay, while our weak leadership in the IBT refuse to even negotiate it. It’s BS and we need leaders who will fight for us - now especially that we as essential workers at UPS are risking our safety from the virus,” said Adam McClelland, a shop steward and part-time UPSer from Chattanooga.