Warehouse worker concerned about lack of social distancing

A woman that works in packing at L&R Distributors in Monroe Township said she’s scared going to work every day. She spoke to NJTV News under the condition that we don’t use her name.

“You’re jam-packed into a tight space with a bunch of other people. People have to share things like packing equipment and box cutters and tape. It’s risky,” she said. “There is absolutely no way to social distance in a warehouse setting.”

She acknowledged how hard it would be to rearrange the warehouse space, but said plexiglass between workers would minimize the risk. So would personal protective equipment, which she said not everyone’s been given, and there’s no enforcement over who’s wearing it. She’d also like to see screening of employees, especially the temps coming in from other facilities.

“I was told by the manager that they were taking temperatures. I’ve never seen that. Nobody’s there at the door when we walk in. We punch in, we all touch the same clock machine to punch in. Nobody’s standing there wiping it down,” she said.

NJTV News attempted to call L&R several times for comment, but haven’t heard back.

United Food & Commercial Workers, Local 2013 — the union that has represented these workers since August — said in a statement: “Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have doubled our efforts to help employees raise urgent issues with management. This includes strongly recommending proper PPE, enforcing social distancing and creating a protocol for routine cleaning and sanitizing the warehouse. Many workers still have fears and legitimate concerns. This crisis is difficult for everyone, but our priority is the health and safety of workers.”

Earlier this week, Sen. Bob Menendez called on OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard, essentially a new set of guidelines to better protect these employees and monitor the inside of the warehouses.

Gov. Phil Murphy said there are limited resources in the state right now for spot checking warehouses, but encouraged employees to report any violations of his executive order requiring appropriate social distancing.

“If they’ve got a complaint about an employer who’s not practicing, enforcing social distancing or work from home rules, go to COVID19.NJ.gov. Find that page and let us know,” Murphy said at his daily press briefing on Friday.

With two kids and a medically-fragile mother-in-law at home, that’s exactly what this worker plans to do.