Uline Workers Suffer Higher COVID-19 Rates
Owners and Trump donors the Uihleins have downplayed pandemic, worker complaints.
Employees at the Wisconsin company Uline have suffered “significantly higher rates” of COVID-19 infection and “have filed numerous complaints about workplace safety to federal authorities,” according to an investigative story by The Guardian.
An “internal document” obtained by the publication shows that “at least 14% of Uline’s corporate workforce has tested positive for COVID-19 since last April, compared to 8.7% of the population in Kenosha county, where the company’s corporate office is located.”
“One complaint filed to federal worker safety regulators, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which was received in July 2020, described workplace hazards including: social distancing guidance not being enforced; lax mask-wearing inside the office; symptomatic employees being allowed to continue to work without face coverings; and employees being forced to return to work in close contact with others even when they could feasibly work from home.
“In one case, the complaint also pointed to the company’s hosting of a ‘lunch-and-learn’ meeting with former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. A photograph of the meeting showed unmasked employees sitting closely together listening to Walker, a Republican, also standing without a mask,” the story reported.
Uline, a packaging company located in Pleasant Prairie, is owned by wealthy uber conservatives Richard and Liz Uihlein, who are among the top donors to Republican candidates in the country. In November the husband and wife both contracted COVID-19. This was after Liz Uihlein called the pandemic “overhyped,” lobbied legislators to overturn Gov. Tony Evers’ public health restrictions and backed a petition to have Evers removed from office, as a story published by Urban Milwaukee reported.
But current and former Uline employees interviewed by The Guardian described a work environment that “takes a haphazard approach to safety, and one in which the founders’ conservative political views – including its opposition to Wisconsin’s stay-at-home orders, which Uline said it abided by – pervade the work environment… ‘The official stuff from HR will say to ‘distance’, but most people don’t really distance. Liz has meetings without masks,’ said one employee.”
“Some of Uline’s roughly 7,000 employees have expressed concerns that too few office and call center employees have been permitted to work from home without a strong case for a medical condition,” as Patch.com previously reported.
The Uihleins live in Lake Forest, Illinois, but Dick has deep roots in Wisconsin. His great-grandfather August Uihlein was a co-founder of Milwaukee’s Joseph Schlitz Brewing Co., and his father co-founded the Illinois-based General Binding Corp., where Uihlein worked in international sales until he and his wife founded the Uline company in 1980.
Dick Uihlein was a big contributor to the Tea Party Patriots, who promoted the violent January 6 march on the U.S. Capitol. He contributed nearly $4.3 million in the past five years to the political action committee of the Tea Party Patriots, including $800,000 in October, according to federal records. That made him by far the single biggest donor to the Tea Party Patriots’ PAC, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That has resulted in calls for Northwestern University to cancel its contract with Uline for packaging products.
An effort to boycott Uline has been launched at Instagram but does not appear to have gotten much traction.
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