Union: At least 36 employees at Tucson UPS distribution center sickened with COVID-19

Teamsters Local 104 says UPS employees are dealing with an increase in shipments, staffing...
Teamsters Local 104 says UPS employees are dealing with an increase in shipments, staffing changes and long days.(Source: KOLD News 13)
Updated: May. 21, 2020 at 6:38 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Officials with the Teamsters Local Union No. 104 said Thursday they believe 36 people working a UPS distribution center in Tucson have tested positive for COVID-19, three of whom have been admitted to intensive care units.

The union said in a news release the company is recruiting employees from New Mexico, Colorado and Utah to the Tucson facility to “compensate for disruptions related to the outbreak.”

Matthew O’Connor, a spokesperson for UPS, confirmed Thursday the company is hiring due to demand in Tucson. O’Connor sent KOLD News 13 this statement:

“UPS is proud of our employees who are safely serving our customers and communities, delivering life-saving goods and basic necessities each day. Since the pandemic began, people have counted on UPS more than ever before, and our employees have responded with passion and dedication. To help meet the increased demand for residential deliveries during this time, UPS is hiring some additional employees in Tucson for all shifts and across all job types. Our highest priority remains the health and safety of our employees, customers, and suppliers.”

Teamsters Local Union No. 104 believes nearly 700 UPS workers and family members could be at risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus and customers could see an increase in delivery delays.

The KOLD News 13 Fact Finders team has been reporting on problems at the facility for days.

Many viewers contacted us about delivery delays. When we reached out to UPS, the company would only say that severe weather, natural disasters, and other conditions “beyond our control” can occasionally disrupt services.

Other viewers told us about a possible outbreak at the facility at Silverlake and Park, but the company would not confirm anything.

“These are just the ones we know of," Karla Schumann, the principal officer and secretary-treasurer for the union, said. “We try to keep each other up to speed as to what we know when it relates to positives.”

Schumann said, moving forward with its COVID-19 response, the company needs to be more aggressive when it comes to testing, contact tracing and isolating potentially infected employees.

“I would ask that they handle this in an aggressive manner, that they mandate testing. I would like for them to improve their contract tracing. They are going by the bare minimum of the CDC guidelines,” Schumann said. “I would like for them to give relief to the people who are doing this day in and day out for them.”

Union officials plan to address their concerns in a conference at the company’s distribution facility located at 899 E. Silverlake Road at 8 a.m. May 22.

O’Connor emailed this statement regarding the union’s concerns:

“Our first priority is always the safety of our employees and the communities we serve. We have been in active communication with Local 104 leaders in Tucson to hear and address their concerns. In any instance where there is a confirmed diagnosis, we immediately contact the Department of Public Health to facilitate a contact trace, fully clean the work area before work resumes, and communicate with potentially impacted employees. We have rigorous safety protocols in place, including cleaning our facilities multiple times a day, providing our employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), implementing social distancing, and providing supplies to clean their work stations and vehicles. We have both a privilege and a responsibility to continue safely working during this challenging period.”

Here’s some additional information on what we’re doing to keep our employees safe.

Communication: We continue to communicate often and regularly with our employees about the recommended behaviors to manage health risks.

Hygiene protocols and social distancing:

· We are continuously sharing the hygiene protocols suggested by the CDC and WHO with all employees.

· The company has modified, and will continue to modify, our normal operating procedures to maintain social distance protocols. For example, we have added space between work stations inside our facilities and suspended requiring customers to sign for “signature required” packages.

· We have also modified other protocols involving site access, gatherings of employees, and public interaction at service counters.

Signs of illness:

· If any employee experiences symptoms such as fever or respiratory infection, they are required to seek medical treatment. We do not want them to come to work if they are sick.

· UPS will provide up to 10 days of compensation for any employee who is diagnosed with the virus, or who is required to quarantine, or if a household member is diagnosed with the virus and the employee is required to quarantine.

Cleaning and disinfecting our facilities and equipment:

· We have substantially increased cleaning and disinfecting surfaces throughout our facilities.

· Our vehicles and equipment are cleaned and disinfected daily with an emphasis on the interiors and frequent exterior touch points, and we are providing our employees with supplies so they can wipe down their work surfaces and vehicles throughout the day.

PPE materials: We have distributed protective equipment to employees and we are regularly replenishing supplies at our facilities.

· This includes hand soap, hand sanitizer and wipes. Disinfecting wipes are extremely limited in the supply chain, but we have other bleach disinfecting solutions in place.

· UPS is providing masks and disposable gloves to our employees. We strongly recommend that our employees wear masks or face coverings, and we have provided our employees with the guidelines to properly use them. We follow all government directives that require the use of masks or face coverings.

For additional information, please visit the “How we’re responding to the Novel Coronavirus” pages on the UPS Pressroom."

The Arizona Department of Health Services shares data on congregate settings in the state with positive COVID-19 cases. Right now, there are 65 in Pima County. While many are considered assisted living or long-term care facilities, four of the ‘settings’ are categorized as a ‘workplace’ and 13 are ‘other.’ The department does not report any other information to identify the congregate settings on it’s data dashboard.

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