Anxious UPS workers in New York City are scouring the boroughs themselves for desperately needed protective equipment and supplies — as more and more co-workers fall ill with the coronavirus and the company clambers to keep up with the growing pandemic.
Warehouse employees across the city have been plagued with shortages of cleaning supplies, masks and gloves, despite being vital workers in the US epicenter of the pandemic.
“The first couple of weeks they were caught off guard and were unprepared,” said Vinny Perrone, President of Local 84 that represents UPS warehouse workers. “The company is scrambling to try to get more from the state and city, but hospitals come first.”
Now, workers are getting sick in droves.
The number of UPS employees that have tested positive is not known, but Perrone believes it’s “many” and transmission is “unavoidable.”
“Guys still show up for work,” said Perrone, “and they have a right not to work.”
In response to the shortage, UPS employees have joined the effort to locate supplies for the company to purchase. One driver on his rounds spotted a distillery in Brooklyn making hand sanitizer and a deal was forged to buy it in bulk for the workers.
But as the rest wait for the big bosses to figure it out, many are getting sick at workplaces that have not been properly cleaned and still lack basic safety precautions.
Receiving a package is low-risk, according to the CDC and WHO — the virus can only survive 24 hours on a cardboard box, and anything inside is safe after days in transit. But warehouse employees aren’t worried about getting sick from boxes.
Workers are on edge, according to Perrone. They don’t know how many are sick, who is sick, and what specific work areas might be affected.
This lack of information has employees scared for their well-being as more and more co-workers call in sick daily.
And while UPS has enforced social distancing measures for trucks and trailers — and even closed its cafeterias — its sorters are still at risk.
Employees working in vehicles can do the job solo, but sorters who put packages in designated areas cannot be cut down to adhere to social distancing protocol without significantly slowing down already overburdened operations.
The union is in daily contact with UPS headquarters, Perrone said.
“They’re trying,” he told The Post. “They have a sprayer now to sanitize the trucks.”