Amazon says it's building a new lab to test its employees for COVID-19. But experts and employees wonder if that's a good thing.
In an April 9 blog post, Amazon announced it was building a COVID-19 testing lab for employees. Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told Business Insider the logic is sound. But he worries that Amazon could end up competing with state governments over finite testing resources. Employees told Business Insider they would prefer Amazon focused on short-term deliverables, including better pay. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Amazon has been doing great, especially since the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic, with sales to self-quarantined customers reportedly up by a third since this time last year. But the online retailer has also been faced with a public relations nightmare, every day bringing word — leaked to the press — of another warehouse or delivery station with a case of COVID-19. Workers have told Business Insider that they are scared, despite efforts by the company to promote social distancing and begin checking employees for signs of fever at the start of each shift. At a facility outside Philadelphia, over a dozen people walked off the job, "freaking out," according to a source there, after receiving automated word that another colleague was infected. Amazon's latest initiative, aimed at reassuring employees and consumers, was announced in an April 9 blog post. "If every person, including people with no symptoms, could be tested regularly, it would make a huge difference in how we are all fighting this virus," the company said. That will take "collective action," and to that end: "we've begun the work of building incremental testing capacity," assembling parts for its very own lab. "We're not sure how far we will get in the relevant timeframe," the company said, dampening expectations, "but we think it's worth trying, and we stand ready to share anything we learn with others." Testing is good, but should Amazon be doing it? Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, gets why Amazon is doing this, telling Business Insider that the logic is sound. "I don't know if it's a PR stunt, obviously," Jha said, "But I am very much a believer in an all-hands-on-deck approach to expanding our testing capacity." And being able to test all of its employees would go a long way toward ensuring their safety. It's just that it's not really Amazon's job to do that, as the company alludes, and attempting to do it could increase competition for limited resources while raising some thorny moral questions. "One of the things I worry about is: Are they going to start trying to compete for the reagents, and the swabs, and all the other things, with state governments that are also trying to build out their infrastructure?" Jha commented. "I'm also not sure it's super useful for every private company to build a testing infrastructure for their own employees," he said. "That raises a whole set of different issues, like sick people not working at Amazon can't get tested, but healthy people working at Amazon can get tested." In short, Amazon isn't wrong for its emphasis on the power of testing — Jha thinks, with ubiquitous swabbing, social-distancing measures could well be loosened by the summer — but it's not the right player. It's the government, especially the federal government, that should be working to build the capacity to test everyone, Amazon employee or not. Workers have other priorities Amazon did not respond to a request for more details on its initiative, such as a date for when the first employees might get tested. But some of its workers, past and present, did tell Business Insider what they think of it. An employee who recently quit over safety concerns said they thought the initiative was laudable, as an idea. But, "To me, that seems more like a long-term project. It is good that they want to help, but I'm not sure how viable it will be." It would be more useful, they said, to more regularly "sanitize any surface that people could touch, not to mention close down, if need." That is a sentiment echoed by other workers: focus more on the short-term — not the shot at the moon. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, "should be concentrating on the issues at hand right now," said one employee. That would include making sure that social-distancing measures are actually enforced, and that all employees are provided adequate protecting equipment, including masks and gloves — something that has been improved, but is not the case, everywhere and at all times, right now. "We are all frustrated that he's doing all these things and not focusing on the workers," the employee said. Part of that is the simple reason why people show up to work at Amazon: money. The company has increased how much overtime pay and boosted hourly wages by $2 during the pandemic. But why not $5, as it does during the Christmas rush? "The dedicated workers like me are getting screwed over." Said another worker: "Bezos has stated he is hiring 100,000 new employees." That, they argued, suggests a greater interest in moving product. "If he were serious about protecting his workforce," the employee said, "he would cut [it] as much as possible and start delivering only the critical items." "Our lives are not worth risking so someone can order a t-shirt or a new toaster," they said. Have a news tip? Email this reporter: email@example.comJoin the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Gold can cost $1,500 per ounce — here's why it's so expensive
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Over 600 Amazon warehouse workers at 148 facilities could have gotten COVID-19, but total numbers are hard to determine because Amazon hasn't been telling its warehouse workers about all cases, multiple employees say
An Amazon insider has been keeping a list of all the COVID-19 cases at the company's...An Amazon insider has been keeping a list of all the COVID-19 cases at the company's warehouses on a public post on Reddit. As of April 29, the public list tallied over 600 cases at 148 U.S. facilities and two confirmed deaths, with the latest cases reported on Monday, April 28 at least 5 facilities. The list is necessary because warehouse employees have not been told of all the cases they've been exposed to, multiple people tell Business Insider. An Amazon spokesperson says that the company was at first verbally alerting employees who directly worked with affected workers but now it promptly texts all workers at the facility when it learns of new confirmed cases. Some Amazon's warehouse workers remain concerned that they are not being promptly notified. They continue to report new cases to the keeper of this list. "There's no transparency at all," a warehouse worker in New York said about COVID-19 case information. "The first case, we didn't hear about it from management. We heard about it from the workers from that shift." Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. The first place many Amazon warehouse workers go every morning is Reddit. A list on the site, maintained by an anonymous individual who claims to be an Amazon insider, catalogs every case of COVID-19 confirmed at the company's numerous warehouses. The list has become a vital resource for a group of people on the frontlines of the pandemic— the hourly workers who package goods and ship them to millions of homebound Americans — as they desperately seek up-to-date information about the safety of the facilities they report to everyday. Amazon provides updates to its workers on confirmed COVID-19 cases, but the information has often been slow to get released and spotty, multiple people have confirmed to Business Insider. As of April 30, the Reddit list shows more than 600 cases of coronavirus infections at 148 US Amazon facilities and three confirmed deaths. The list, maintained on a website more often associated with not-safe-for-work content than vital workplace safety data, is the latest example of how the pandemic is reshaping the importance of technology across society and testing the ability of even the most formidable companies to adapt. Amazon has emerged as a critical utility supplying the world with food and other essential items in the pandemic, but at the same time the company has become a target of criticism over reports that its policies and actions are putting its workers at risk. Workers at Amazon warehouses have organized walkouts in recent weeks. And on Friday, a coalition of workers from Amazon, Walmart, FedEx, Target, Instacart, and Whole Foods is going on strike to protest working conditions. Meanwhile, the Reddit list keeps growing with new cases being reported almost daily. An Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider that the company initially shared info on confirmed cases verbally with shift workers, believing that such in-person notifications were more humane. That approach, however well meaning, left many workers saying they were not being informed, and Amazon says it is now texting all employees at an affected facility. "While some companies have cited HIPAA compliance as a reason to not be transparent about the number of confirmed cases in their buildings, we have taken a different approach and are sharing with all employees when a confirmed case occurs in one of our buildings," the Amazon spokesperson said. The keeper of the Reddit list tells Business Insider that much of the information they compile comes from these official texts and other formal communications from the company. But the person says, it also comes from people with direct knowledge of sick workers that don't seem to be included in Amazon's official communications. "I try not to go by hearsay," the list keeper said. "But sadly it seems that Amazon, while they did try to enforce a protocol to notify their employees of cases, there seems to be a thing where some [cases] are going unofficial." Sources tell Business Insider that Amazon is doing a few things that have alarmed warehouse workers. At some warehouses, the company alerted only certain workers of a new case, just the people who share the same shift with the sick person, not the rest of the workers in the facility. Amazon says it has changed this approach and is now alerting everyone. If a warehouse has many cases — some of them have now had dozens — Amazon's texts don't say how many new cases have been reported, so workers don't know the total number of cases at the facility. Workers say that sometimes the text is sent days or weeks after new cases have been confirmed, rolling up all the new cases in one alert. A warehouse worker tells a harrowing tale "What we've heard from workers is that it was taking them often times over a week to be notified of COVID cases. And we heard just last week that they sometimes announce total cases but at the end of people's shifts," fired Amazon tech worker Emily Cunningham told Business Insider. Cunningham is one of the leaders of the employee activist group Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ) who has been pressing the company over warehouse worker conditions, among other issues. Amazon fired her and another leader of the group, 15-year Amazon veteran Maren Costa, earlier this month for violating Amazon's external communications and no solicitation policies after the company learned the group was organizing an event to support warehouse workers. Cunningham and Costa organized a virtual "sick out" on Friday to support warehouse workers. During that event, one New York warehouse worker who identified himself only as "Mike" told a harrowing first-person account. "There's no transparency at all," Mike said about COVID-19 case information. "The first case, we didn't hear about it from management. We heard about it from the workers from that shift, where that worker got a call, got a positive diagnosis, told management and went home." That first case happened about a month ago, he said. According to Mike, he didn't receive a text alert about that case until after he had already arrived at work. And, he said, workers on the shift that followed his shift were not included in the alert. Workers at that facility organized several walk-outs that shut it down for a few shifts, Mike said. After that, the company promptly texted workers when the second and third confirmed cases emerged. But, when Amazon said nothing about new cases for much of April, Mike cornered a manager demanding an update and was told that the warehouse had five or six cases, he said. "Just yesterday, they sent out another text and said there had been another case," Mike said. "That was the 4th text, the fourth time they actually notified people. But even last night, I talked to people at other shifts and not everyone got that text." When Mike asked the manager about the lack of alerts for each new case, he was told that sometimes the texts represent multiple new cases, he said. Warning texts 'go to only select employees' The Reddit list keeper told Business Insider a similar thing. For instance, the text messages sent to employees at the warehouse in Easton, Pa., known internally as ABE4, stopped including the specific number of cases after the 11th confirmed case, the insider said. "MEM1 had their first and second case verbally confirmed and they didn't see any texts until the 3rd case. HOU2 has at least 19, they also stopped giving a number in their texts. Same with JFK8, LGA9, EWR9, EWR8, BOS5, and MOB5 had their texts only go to select employees instead of the entire FC [fulfillment center]," the list keeper told Business Insider. One relative of an Amazon worker at the Hazel Park, MI, location told Business Insider that the worker had not heard of any cases at that location, but had merely overheard workers talking about a case. The Reddit list says that the facility has confirmed 6 cases through texts, with the latest text sent on April 22. But that facility is rumored to have 12 or more cases because the texts stopped listing the number of cases after the 5th one. Although an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider that the company is now alerting every worker at the facility as soon as it hears of a new case, warehouse workers feel distrustful that this is actually happening, one worker said. Enforcing social distancing policies While Amazon is now providing its workers with masks and still has social distancing policies in place, some workers say that not everyone follows them and enforcement of these policies is not uniform. An Amazon spokesperson says the company is doing all it can to ensure social distancing policies are followed and that an employee who violates such policies can be fired. "We have adjusted practices to ensure social distancing is happening throughout the buildings. We are taking intense measures to ensure the health and safety of employees across our sites and recently implemented a new policy: individuals who intentionally violate our social distancing guidelines will receive two warnings – on the second documented offense, termination may occur," the spokesperson says. But there are still loopholes that can be easily sidestepped. While Amazon checks the temperatures of warehouse employees at the start of their shift, the same does not always occur for every driver that visits every facility, according to multiple people. Delivery drivers are often contractors. "We are conducting temperature checks across our US and European operations network and Whole Foods Market stores, testing hundreds of thousands of employees daily. If people have a fever, we'll ask them to go home and return to work when they are without fever for at least three days," the spokesperson said. Amazon also has dedicated social distancing enforcement employees roaming the floors with a six-foot stick to measure and remind employees to stay far apart. But Mike, the Amazon worker from the virtual protest, says that, in the last two weeks, as Amazon has hired thousands of new workers, there are times when some facilities get so busy with orders and workers, that they wind up temporarily working closer than six feet together on the packaging lines. Some workers fear their exposure situation will get worse before it gets better because on May 1, Amazon is ending its policy of allowing unlimited, unpaid time off. "Unlimited and paid time off is ending," says Costa. "Amazon is always saying what they're doing. But the measures put in place are not consistently enforced. I get emotional. It bothers me the way warehouse workers are treated by the company." The spokesperson said that even though the blanket policy of time off is ending, employees may still qualify for unpaid, or paid, time off on a doctor mandated quarantine, on a case-by-case basis. Are you an Amazon insider with insight to share? Contact Julie Bort via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on encrypted chat app Signal at (970) 430-6112 (no PR inquiries, please). Open DMs on Twitter @Julie188. Now read: Airbnb has postponed new grad hires until August 2021 but is giving them 10% of their offered salary right now — even if they turn down the job For the first time, customers can't — or won't — pay their cloud software bills, which could forever change the once-reliable subscription model A 'nanofiber' mask fabric manufactured in Oklahoma filters 9 times as many tiny, potentially dangerous particles as a bandana, independent tests show. Here's how you can buy it. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why Pikes Peak is the most dangerous racetrack in America
Amazon is reportedly tightening access to internal mass email lists amid a surge of worker organizing (AMZN)
Amazon is keeping a closer eye on large internal email lists, Recode reported Wednesday. Some employees...Amazon is keeping a closer eye on large internal email lists, Recode reported Wednesday. Some employees perceived the increased enforcement as an attempt by Amazon to limit activism within its ranks, according to Recode, while the company told Business Insider the move was part of a routine audit. Activists fired by Amazon earlier in April accused the company of trying to shut down a virtual event discussing working conditions by deleting employees' calendar invites. Amazon workers have become increasingly critical in recent weeks of the company's response to the coronavirus pandemic, organizing multiple protests and walkouts. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Amazon is ramping up enforcement of its internal communications rules limiting employees' use of large email lists, Recode reported Wednesday. Amazon's IT department told employees who manage email lists of more than 500 people that they must have moderators pre-approve posts on those lists — an existing rule that some employees said was rarely enforced, according to Recode. Additionally, the moderators must be designated "L6" managers or above, effectively limiting the list of employees able to approve posts to a smaller subset of higher ranking managers, sparking concerns that the company is trying to prevent workers from organizing, Recode reported. "It's obviously and transparently being done to shut down employee communication," an Amazon corporate employee told Recode, adding: "If we wanted to share information about a firing internally or publicize an event, we would need to convince a moderator to let us do it — and that would be mean them risking getting fired." An Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider the increased enforcement came as result of a routine audit that discovered some lists weren't being moderated as required under the policy or had been granted exemptions that were no longer allowed. Amazon has repeatedly come under fire in recent weeks from employees who say the company is enforcing internal communications policies in ways that make it difficult for them to voice concerns about working conditions or organize — rights protected under federal law. Earlier in April, two Seattle-based software engineers who were fired by Amazon after publicly criticizing its response to the coronavirus pandemic accused the company of deleting employees' calendar invites to a virtual event they had organized to discuss warehouse working conditions. "Amazon has shown they will not allow us to share details for how to join the meeting internally, so we are forced to gather externally," Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, the group behind the event, wrote in a Google form announcing the event. "We support every employee's right to criticize their employer's working conditions, but that does not come with blanket immunity against any and all internal policies. We terminated these employees for repeatedly violating internal policies," Amazon told Business Insider in a statement at the time. Amazon has fired at least six workers in recent weeks following their involvement in protests. The company is now facing multiple inquiries from the National Labor Relations Board about whether it unlawfully retaliated against workers who spoke out, as well as an investigation brought by New York City's human rights commissioner concerning the same issue. Earlier this week, New York's attorney general said Amazon may have violated the state's whistleblower law by firing a warehouse worker who went on strike. Amazon workers have organized multiple strikes in New York, Chicago, Minnesota, Italy, and virtually after colleagues tested positive for COVID-19, calling the company's coronavirus response inadequate and criticizing its refusal to provide information about the number of its warehouses which have seen outbreaks of the disease. Amazon has defended conditions in its warehouses, telling Business Insider in previous statements that it's ramping up cleaning efforts, enforcing social distancing guidelines, building its own lab to begin testing a small number of employees for the coronavirus, and that it has raised employees' pay.SEE ALSO: An unprecedented coalition of Amazon, Walmart, FedEx, Target, Instacart, and Whole Foods workers are planning to strike over pandemic working conditions Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: What makes 'Parasite' so shocking is the twist that happens in a 10-minute sequence
'The supervisor coughed in a coworker's direction as a joke': As coronavirus cases at the US Postal Service surpass 1,200, employees say a lack of supplies and care is putting them at risk
Confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus have surpassed 1,200 at the United States Postal Service, which...Confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus have surpassed 1,200 at the United States Postal Service, which logged a mere 51 cases less than a month ago. More than 30 employees have died. In emails to Business Insider, USPS employees claimed a lack of sanitation supplies, sick pay, and care from supervisors. One employee said a supervisor coughed in the direction of a coworker "as a joke." The USPS told Business Insider that the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued an inquiry into the claim, and that after the USPS responded, "OSHA closed the matter without further inspection." The USPS has established safety and leave policies during the pandemic, but employees and unions have said those policies aren't being carried out everywhere. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. United States Postal Service employees from various states and municipalities are sharing their stories about what it's like to process and deliver the nation's mail during a pandemic. As confirmed COVID-19 cases surpass 1,200 among the employees, a common refrain has emerged: lack of supplies and care amid the deadly outbreak is putting them at risk. "I'm almost begging you to do some sort of investigation," a longtime USPS employee and American Postal Workers Union (APWU) member in California told Business Insider via email. The employee said they felt as if their supervisors didn't care, which was underscored by one particular event. "A coworker stated that the supervisor coughed in his direction less than a few feet away as a joke after the employee had made a remark about [the coronavirus]," they said. The employee claimed that the acting manager "sort of chuckled" when it happened, making light of a pandemic that has so far infected more than 2.6 million people and killed more than 180,000 worldwide. A USPS spokesperson told Business Insider that the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued an inquiry into the claim, and that after the USPS responded, "OSHA closed the matter without further inspection." Emails like the one above began to flood in not long after the USPS joined the coronavirus news cycle, such as in this story about how the service was in a financial crisis and how, as of March 25, 51 of 630,000 USPS employees had tested positive for the coronavirus and nearly 2,000 were in quarantine. At the time, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) union representing USPS city carriers said protective measures from the USPS weren't being deployed evenly. But things have gotten worse since then. As of April 17, counts from the NALC were that more than 900 employees had tested positive for the virus, more than 600 additional workers were presumed positive, more than 8,000 were in quarantine, and that more than 30 USPS employees had died from COVID-19, including nine city carriers. The American Postal Workers Union, which also represents USPS employees, wrote on April 16 that more than 35 postal workers, including "a number of APWU members," had died of COVID-19. On April 21, USPS spokesperson Dave Partenheimer told Business Insider that 1,219 employees had tested positive for COVID-19, in addition to "some deaths." Partenheimer did not have quarantine numbers to provide. That means the USPS has roughly 24 times the amount of cases it had less than a month ago, despite both insufficient amounts of testing and inequality in distribution across the US — as illustrated by asymptomatic celebrities, athletes, and billionaires obtaining tests while nurses on the front lines struggle to do the same. The longtime USPS employee in California, who isn't a carrier, told Business Insider that employees including themself were "either scared to speak up or simply don't want to put a target on [their] back for speaking up" about insufficiencies at the post office amid the pandemic. Only one employee who emailed Business Insider, who had been previously quoted by another outlet, didn't ask to stay anonymous out of fear of retaliation — Colorado carrier Stefan Geissler, who has actively spoken about the USPS' response to the pandemic. "While so many businesses have done their part and made difficult decisions to flatten the curve, the USPS is, as you know, not even in the starting blocks," Geissler told Business Insider via email. Other employees who reached out to Business Insider specifically asked not to be identified in order to protect their employment, which Business Insider has verified. The others echoed Geisler, along with the California employee saying they don't feel like the pandemic is being taken seriously enough. Management and other employees aren't following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, they said, and they've sent complaints to multiple organizations about what's going on. "We're given daily 'stand up' safety briefings and are required to sign documents saying we were given this 'training,' yet the supervisors do not practice any of the recommendations," they said, adding that the safety briefings happen every day in a small room and social-distancing guidelines aren't followed during them. "They are different everyday, and seem to be from the CDC and the post office's safety department." But, the employee said, their office hasn't "bothered to inform [them] of an employee who got the coronavirus in a building less than 100 yards away." They discovered the nearby case after seeing an alert that was intended for managers, they said. "When an employee asked about any cases next door, both the supervisor and acting manager acted as though they knew nothing and quickly changed the subject," they said. "Myself and three other employees go into that building to get our facility's mail, and they said nothing to us. "And here we are interacting within the vicinity, not knowing if we could be contracting a deadly disease and take it home to our families." The NALC said that in March, the USPS created a mandatory stand-up talk required to be given each time a facility has an employee who tested positive for COVID-19. The union has asked employees to report it if those talks are not happening. When asked, Partenheimer told Business Insider that in addition to stand-up talks that are supposed to be given when an employee tests positive, "any employees who may have had exposure" to the person who tested positive are notified. The California employee, an American Postal Workers Union member, said the union had been notified of all of the issues in their facility. On April 17, they sent Business Insider a photo of a bottle with clear liquid and a homemade label reading "hand sanitizer," claiming that it was a replacement bottle in the office. "No labels, just some bottle management gave us," they said. "Is it the right mixture?" When asked about the photo, Partenheimer told Business Insider that the USPS "only uses or purchases EPA approved products for cleaning and sanitizing." A Massachusetts employee who has spent decades working for the postal service, primarily as a city carrier, said that while their branch is supposed to receive daily safety briefings, there were three days during the first week of April when there were no briefings. The inconsistency carried into the next week, they said. When asked how the USPS is ensuring daily talks happen and safety protocols are being enforced, Partenheimer told Business Insider: "Standard Work Instructions have been issued to address social distancing in a number of different situations, including performing talks to our employees." In addition, Partenheimer said, all stand-up talks "are tracked" to ensure they happen. When asked how they're logged, Partenheimer said it's done in an online system called the "Safety Toolkit." People who are conducting the briefings have to certify that they delivered the talks and when they were given. But the Massachusetts employee said the inconsistency of safety briefings wasn't the only problem. "We have had limited access to sanitizing wipes and employees have resorted to buying construction wipes online," they said, adding that as of April 3, their postal facility hadn't provided employees with any hand sanitizer. The local fire and EMS service donated more than 20 small bottles of sanitizer, they said, adding that the USPS' "lack of preparedness and concern" is "systemic of our work conditions." The local fire chief confirmed the donation to Business Insider, saying the employee's office was one of two that received sanitizer donations. The employee "wouldn't dream of treating employees this way," they said. Employees were eventually provided with Lysol spray to share, the employee from Massachusetts said, in addition to a "short supply of gloves and limited wipes." Those in the community created cloth masks, too. A longtime city carrier in Ohio told Business Insider that when they opted to self quarantine at the end of March after not receiving adequate supplies or workstation sanitation, and after hearing that employees weren't being "informed of employees with pending tests," they weren't able to use their hundreds of hours of earned sick leave. The employee, a National Association of Letter Carriers member, sent photos of their hour tracking and earned hours, and said they were docked for leave without pay — which they felt was retaliation for feeling unsafe. "I am sure the union will get me the money eventually after a long grievance process," they said. "It is just the principal of the matter." When the Ohio employee returned to work on April 6 after their leave, they said their office did have hand sanitizer, surgical masks, gloves and wipes, but not everyone's temperature was taken. It was also announced that carriers would start staggering work by two hours in order to maintain proper social distancing, they said, but it still wasn't enough. "Out of the 30-plus people there this morning, I and two others were the only ones with masks on in the office and nothing was ever mentioned about the fatalities of fellow carriers in New York or the recent death of the mail handler in Detroit," they said, adding that carriers were responsible for sanitizing their own vehicles and were instructed not to let businesses or senior-living facilities take their temperatures. "We are also not being updated as to our number of positive cases within the company." Partenheimer confirmed that employees aren't allowed to submit to temperature readings or medical questionnaires as a condition of delivery, "because temperature readings and medical questionnaires are currently considered confidential medical information." "Under the Rehabilitation Act and the Privacy Act, specific employee medical information must be kept confidential and may only be shared in very limited circumstances," Partenheimer said. Partenheimer also confirmed that carriers are responsible for maintaining vehicles and workstations, and that the USPS has instructed drivers "to clean frequently touched surfaces regularly." "All required supplies were made available to employees on a daily basis," Partenheimer told Business Insider. "When supplies need to be replenished, every effort was and is being made to expedite the orders." A month ago, the NALC union was talking about the claimed lack of supplies promised by the USPS. While the service agreed to provide certain provisions during the coronavirus pandemic, the union said in a March 25 update — daily cleaning supplies for offices and vehicles, hand sanitizer and other clearing supplies for carriers, and masks and gloves for any employee who requested them — much of that promise wasn't being fulfilled. "We have received almost 3,000 reports from all over the country regarding these issues," the union statement from March said. "In some places, all of these things are being done. However, in too many places they are not. "In the places where there are not enough supplies, or none at all, it is generally due to the overall shortage of these items throughout the country. USPS has been working to acquire more items, even authorizing local managers to purchase them if they could be found." In the April 17 update, the NALC indicated that the problem hadn't been fixed entirely, saying that the NALC was "in constant communication and negotiation with management" about "supplies, equipment, policies, protocols, and work procedures necessary to keep letter carriers safe." When asked about the claims of supply shortages, Partenheimer told Business Insider that the USPS "worked through some early supply-chain issues — the same issues faced by others across the country — and [is] making sure the supplies and equipment are getting to all areas." The NALC told members to immediately contact the union if they saw issues in the workplace, many of which were mentioned by the employees who reached out to Business Insider. Those issues included, emphasis ours: Please continue to contact us with any questions, and to report offices that are not being sanitized on a regular basis, that do not have sufficient supplies (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, masks, gloves, etc.), that are not following Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) protocols for employees to be quarantined, that have not implemented social distancing practices, that are not providing daily communication regarding stand-up talks, safety precautions, and instances of infection in the building, that expect employees to work without protection or in an unsanitized environment, or that have any other issues that put employees at increased risk. The union added in that same update that the USPS had recently agreed to provide N95 masks to employees who are more vulnerable to the virus and request such equipment. That's in addition to an April 2 update from the USPS, which said it would: ensure "millions of masks, gloves and cleaning and sanitizing product are available and distributed to more than 30,000 locations every day"; ensure appropriate social distancing at facilities; update cleaning policies to meet CDC guidelines; allow "allow liberal use of leave" for employees; allow those who can work remotely to do so; and issue "a daily cadence of employee talks, articles, videos, and other communications to ensure employees have the latest information and guidance." Neither the NALC nor the APWU responded to a list of questions sent over by Business Insider. But as both employees and the unions have pointed out, not all of those protection promises from the USPS have panned out yet. Still, the Ohio employee said, people rely on the work of USPS employees — from those looking for medication to local restaurants sending out deal fliers to stay afloat and those relying on an income by making masks and selling them. And even amid a "toxic" work environment that requires the right mental attitude to stick with, they said, "the good outweighs the bad." "I love my job and my customers, and I take pride in going out of my way for them everyday," they said. "We are essential. "But if I can't ensure my own safety, I can't ensure my customers' safety either." Are you a USPS employee with a story to share about the coronavirus pandemic? Contact the reporter at email@example.com.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: What makes 'Parasite' so shocking is the twist that happens in a 10-minute sequence