Nearly one hundred and sixty employees at a YRC Worldwide call center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota are concerned their workplace could be the next hot spot after Smithfield Foods, a large meat processing plant in Sioux Falls temporarily closed down with over 280 positive COVID-19 Cases. According to a press release by the Teamsters Local 120 union, despite a confirmed COVID-19 case, the call center has continued business as usual.
“YRCW management is not taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously,” said Tyler Barrett, Teamsters Local 120 Business Agent who represents the call center employees. “The lack of action and concern from management has been alarming. They’ve provided little to no communication to employees, and whatever information they have communicated appears to be either false or incomplete.”
According to YRC’s daily COVID-19 daily response guide, posted on their website, YRC has several steps in place to mitigate exposure to COVID-19 whether it is urging employees to stay home when feeling ill to encouraging employees to wipe down high touch work areas.
“The trucking industry is the backbone of the American economy, and YRCW’s role in the North American supply chain is critical, especially now,” YRC said in a statement. “Currently, there are no COVID-19 related delays across our freight network. Infrastructure, including duplicate customer service centers and other contingencies, allow us to continue customer service support in the event of any emergency response.”
After hearing about the confirmed COVID-19 case, Barrett said the employees were informed by YRCW management that the call center would be undergoing a “deep cleaning.” However, the supposed cleaning does not appear to have taken place.
“My members are calling and sending me pictures of their unsanitary work environment. If there was any cleaning done, it wasn’t close to sufficient,” Barrett said. “When employees questioned management about the lack of safety precautions taken, they were told they were embarrassing themselves and were instructed to bring in their own personal cleaning supplies.”
One employee representative was disciplined for vocalizing her concerns about the noticeably unsafe conditions. Teamsters Local 120 President, Tom Erickson, said the Union will not stay silent. “The handling of this situation is both disgraceful and irresponsible, especially after what happened at Smithfield,” Erickson said.
“The negligent and arrogant attitudes of these managers puts the health and safety of our members and the general public at serious risk. This company is knowingly contributing to the possible spread of COVID-19. There are guidelines set in place by the CDC that they appear to be disregarding. We will not tolerate that for our members. YRCW management clearly does not recognize the extreme urgency of this situation. We need our local officials to step in and hold them to account,” Erickson said.