Marge Harvey got her job back.
Harvey, a 33-year veteran driver for UPS in St. Johnsbury, was fired on April 10 after pushing management on unsafe conditions at her workplace, including no personal protective equipment, no soap in the bathrooms and no social distancing. Harvey was concerned the novel coronavirus could easily spread in such an unprotected environment.
Harvey filed a whistleblower complaint with the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) on April 20, and with Vermont OSHA the following day, saying she was fired after repeatedly complaining to management about the unsafe conditions.
At a meeting with UPS officials in St. Johnsbury on Monday, April 27, Harvey was reinstated. She began driving her route again the next day.
Harvey said Tuesday that before the meeting with management she was advised by her union representative to apologize.
“That was basically it,” she said. “It got me my job back.”
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Asked about conditions now, Harvey said they are a little better. Drivers now have cleaning supplies, but she said “we’re all over the board on social distancing and wearing a mask.”
“Everybody is for themselves it seems like, instead of for each other,” Harvey said. “There’s a lot of us who take care of each other and wear a mask and do social distancing, but they don’t enforce any of it.”
On the other hand, Harvey said, there’s only so much management can do.
“What are they going to do, fire everybody?” she said.
Thankful to be working again
Harvey summed up her experience over the past few weeks as “absolutely traumatizing.”
“I’m so thankful to be back to work and I’m amazed at the support I’ve gotten from my brother and sister UPS drivers, just absolutely amazed,” she said.
Some of Harvey’s fellow drivers staged protests at UPS facilities around the state in the aftermath of her firing. And some of her customers on her route raised their voices as well.
Angela Flanagan, who lives in Canaan on Harvey’s route, posted her first petition on Change.org after reading about Harvey’s firing in the Burlington Free Press.
“I only have about 300 Facebook friends, a small social circle and not Twitter, Snapchat or any of those other things,” Flanagan wrote in an email. “I felt compelled to try to do something to help her. She has been the kindest hardest working UPS person that I have had deliver to my house and has been delivering here for so long that I can’t remember when she started.”
Despite her modest social media footprint, Flanagan said her petition had gathered more than 80,000 signatures by the time Harvey met with UPS management. After Harvey was reinstated, a local restaurant in Canaan put up a sign welcoming her back.
“I’m just a person on her route but knew everyone loved her,” Flanagan said.
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Harvey calls herself a “short-timer” as she is near retirement. She said the volume of packages she and her fellow drivers are delivering every day during the pandemic is “astronomical,” but that they all try to empty their trucks before heading home.
“That’s the way I’ve been taught,” Harvey said. “That’s all we do is service. We don’t manufacture anything, we serve the public. I do my best every day to get every single person their package.”
Contact Dan D’Ambrosio at 660-1841 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanDambrosioVT. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Sign up today for a digital subscription.
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