An employee at a Walmart fulfillment center in Fort Worth has filed a report with the OSHA claiming that the facility has had 58 confirmed COVID-19 cases and social distancing isn’t being property enforced.
The complaint, which was filed Thursday to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said that managers disclosed to employees that 58 co-workers had tested positive for COVID-19 and five more are presumed positive.
The employee has worked at the facility since before the pandemic started and has provided information to OSHA but wants to remain anonymous beyond that, according to United for Respect a group formed to advocate for front-line retail store and fulfillment center workers.
In the filing, the Walmart employee said the infected workers were working in the packing and picking areas for inbound and outbound merchandise.
“Social distancing has not been enforced at six feet. The number of positive cases continue to rise,” the Walmart employee said in the OSHA report.
Chauntra Rideaux, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Labor, said “currently OSHA is not investigating any incidents at this location.”
Texas has been setting single-day records of coronavirus cases this week, and Gov. Greg Abbott predicted that next week will “look worse.”
“While we are not going to comment on the specifics of any particular complaint, the controls and practices we have in place are consistent with CDC and OSHA COVID-19 preparedness guidance,” said Robyn Babbitt, a Walmart spokeswoman.
Texas is Walmart’s largest state based on store counts, with 593 Walmart and Sam’s Club stores and for employees. The company has 162,000 workers in Texas, including its workers in 19 distribution and fulfillment centers.
Ten of the cases at the Fort Worth facility were reported over the fourth of July holiday weekend, according to the Walmart employee.
The 800,000-square-foot building now employs 4,000 workers in multiple shifts, reflecting the increased consumer demand for online shopping.
United for Respect, which says it’s not a labor union but many of its members are in unions, calls itself a multiracial movement demanding higher pay and a voice on the job for front-line retail workers nationwide. It’s seeking hazard pay at 1.5-times front-line workers’ regular compensation.
The group started a COVID-19 tracker on April 29 that includes the Fort Worth fulfillment center among its entries. The point of the site is to inform coworkers and communities about store conditions and potential outbreaks, the group said. The site lists 805 cases reported and 22 deaths of Walmart employees from COVID-19 in the U.S.
The United for Respect site posts are anonymous and are monitored by United for Respect to remove duplicate reports from multiple employees in the same building. It also includes information about Amazon and Sam’s Club facilities.
Walmart is “following the evolving guidance of public health experts, and we have quickly taken steps aimed at keeping our associates safe,” Babbitt said. That includes making face coverings mandatory, making gloves and protective eyewear available to employees and deep cleaning facilities. It’s also taking temperature checks and performing health screenings while promoting social distancing measures.
“While it may be impossible to track the source of anyone’s infection, what we are seeing is that the health of our associates tends to track the health of the country as a whole,” Babbitt said. “That’s why we are working in partnership with local health officials and are taking proactive steps to help ensure the safety of our associates and customers.”
From the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Walmart and other retailers that were deemed essential and stayed open during the shutdowns have added paid leave for workers who test positive.
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