Warehouse workers, truckers, postal staff: People who power our mail face major strain

In all phases of America’s shipping pipeline, frontline staffers are at risk.


March 26, 2020

If you’re stuck at home trying to ride out the pandemic, you’ve probably done some online shopping — maybe even for things that aren’t truly essential.

But before you open that cardboard box, think about the workers who brought the package to your door.

In all phases of America’s shipping pipeline, frontline staffers are at risk. Here’s a closer look at what they’re up against.

Phase 1: Your order starts at the warehouse

Amazon is one of the few places left standing for items you can’t get at your local grocery. The company is hiring like crazy, but cracks in the base o’ Bezos are starting to show:

  • CNN reported that at least 11 Amazon facilities have been hit by coronavirus cases so far. (The company says it has more than 110 fulfillment centers in North America.)
  • Some warehouse workers have complained that they weren’t notified when colleagues tested positive. Three workers at a Kentucky facility tested positive, and the state’s governor ordered it shut down until April 1. 

The company is prioritizing shipments of essential goods, but even those might be hard to come by. A 12-pack of Amazon’s Presto paper towels is out of stock until the second week of April.

Phase 2: It’s on the truck

Crazy fluctuations in supply and demand have the trucking industry swerving to avoid danger. Drivers have lots to haul but little to bring back on the return trip:

  • Last week, shipments to grocery and discount stores were up more than 50% over the same period in 2019. But restaurants and retail stores are ghost towns.
  • One exec told The Wall Street Journal that the pandemic is forcing the industry to “redesign the network in real time.”

Then there are the on-the-job struggles. Some truck stops are shutting down eateries and restrooms, and drivers are running low on sanitary supplies.

Phase 3: It’s out for delivery

Now your package is in the hands of a delivery driver or a postal worker. They’re all being hit hard:

  • The $2T stimulus package passed by the Senate included a $10B Treasury loan for the Postal Service. Two members of Congress said the service wouldn’t survive the summer without financial assistance, since mail volumes have plunged. 
  • At least 85 of the nation’s 630k postal workers have fallen ill, raising fears of an outbreak among employees. 

Keep in mind: The Postal Service says there’s currently no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through the mail. So here’s a suggestion: Show the workers who deliver your packages and letters a little love.

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