Sister and brother Teamsters,
By now everyone knows that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a serious pandemic that threatens serious illness and death. Governor Tony Evers has declared a state of emergency following more confirmed cases of the virus in Wisconsin, and is ordering public schools to close starting Wednesday, March 18th. It can’t be overstated how serious this public health crisis is.
As Teamsters, we’re not powerless here. We have not heard from Local 695, but there are examples from other Teamster locals we should take from. Local 705 in Chicago has been contacting their members’ employers asking them to suspend absentee discipline during the crisis: no one should lose their job to take care of themselves or a loved one.
The Chicago Teachers Union has called for additional paid sick time that line up with quarantine recommendations (15 days). Amazon warehouse workers, not represented by a union, petitioned and won paid sick leave protections; workers at the City of Madison, including rank and file Teamsters, are likewise petitioning for safe conditions, paid leave and job protection — while we’re working, we need a safe workplace that includes sanitizer, respirator masks and other gear to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International has released a brief calling for:
- At least two weeks of paid sick leave for all workers;
- Extension of unemployment benefits for workers temporarily laid off or whose work hours have been disrupted;
- Payroll tax cuts for all lower- and middle-income workers; and
- Protection against unfair termination or discrimination for those suspected of being exposed to the coronavirus.
There are things that can be done to protect our health and our livelihood. Read your contracts for any health and safety information, contact Local 695 asking them to get to work on this yesterday, and organize for what we need — we don’t expect anyone’s going to do it for us.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has put together a very good fact sheet regarding COVID-19 that we’d encourage everyone to read:
Solidarity — Rebuild 695.