Workers at the shipping center in San Ramon were informed Wednesday that a colleague had tested positive, but were given no other information, like whom the employee had been in contact with or which department he worked in. UPS also declined to confirm the case with this news organization, but sources said the employee was a driver in training.
Three employees in San Francisco have also tested positive for the virus, union leadership confirmed with this news organization. Another “four or five” employees in the Oakland and Hayward facilities have tested positive for the virus, said Marty Frates, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Teamsters Local 70, which represents those employees.
“It’s amazing there have only been three in San Francisco,” said Joseph Cilia, Secretary-Treasurer of the Teamsters Local 2785, which represents employees on the Peninsula.
Mask orders remain in effect across the region and a UPS spokesperson said the company “follow(s) all government directives that require the use of masks or face coverings” and “strongly recommend that our employees wear masks or face coverings.” While the company provides masks and other personal protective equipment, there are regularly workers and supervisors not covering their faces, according to the unions.
Cilia also represents employees for the UPS competitor DHL, which primarily handles international packages. That company approached union representatives about instituting temperature checks at the beginning of the pandemic. Meanwhile, union leadership say they continue to plead for the same from UPS.
In response to a request for comment, UPS directed this news organization to its COVID-19 response plan, which says the company has added space between work stations in addition to other safety measures. But Cilia likened the “shoulder-to-shoulder” working conditions to meat plants, which have been a breeding ground for the virus.
At a single UPS facility in Tucson, dozens of employees contracted the virus, according to local news reports. In addition to temperature checks, union leaders have also asked UPS to provide time during shift changes so that employees starting their shift aren’t interacting with those ending theirs.
Frates said he may just buy temperature readers and stand outside the facility himself. Months into the pandemic, on June 15, he penned a letter to his members that read, in part, “UPS does not care about your health and safety, only to move packages and the almighty dollar” and called the company’s response to the pandemic “a joke.”
The new cases among UPS employees come amid a surge in shipping demand. The company is handling holiday-season levels of packages and deliveries to residential addresses that used to account for half of UPS deliveries now make up 70%, a company spokesperson said.
But the company hasn’t adequately handled the extra demand, Frates said, leading to numerous reports of packages being delayed or undelivered. He used an analogy to paint a picture of the workers’ perspective.
“It’s like a glass of water,” he said. “When it’s full, you turn off the faucet.”
One website which tracks outages, downdetector.com, shows clusters of complaints across the country, with notable hotspots in the Bay Area, Los Angeles and northeast corridor.
“They’re working 13-14 hours a day and it’s getting worse,” Cilia said. “It’s getting to the point where we’re telling UPS you have to cut this volume coming in because it has surpassed Christmas numbers.”The company in March suspended its service guarantee for all shipments and extended its delivery window for next-day air from 10:30 a.m. to the end of day. But customers continue to pay for priority shipping that there is no way to guarantee, the union leaders said.
Frates experienced the delays in his own household. When his wife ordered medication using UPS’ next-day air, a shipment supposed to come by Friday didn’t arrive until Tuesday afternoon.
“They need to stop accepting packages and protect their employees,” Cilia said.