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‘Very high risk’: longshoremen want virus protection so they can stay at work

“We’re in hiding,” said Kenneth Riley, president of the local longshoremen’s union in Charleston, SC. they will be.

Working at sea is exhausting and often requires close contact with others. Trade is essential to the economy, with longshoremen serving as the crucial link between the movement of goods from a shipping vessel to trucks and trains that send them to their final destination, experts said.

More than 95% of foreign trade with the United States passes through one of the country’s roughly 150 deep-water ports, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Workers most at risk of exposure to the virus are deep sea longshoremen, who are predominantly black and do most of the work that involves lifting and moving goods, union officials noted.

Lashers, who remove steel rods from containers so that they can be lifted by crane operators, sweat and breathe heavily when working in pairs side by side. Shuttle drivers, tasked with transporting their fellow longshoremen to and from both ends of a dock that can stretch for miles, spend their days crammed into Ford Crown Victoria’s and school buses with other longshoremen.

“It’s a very high risk,” said Gail Jackson, 45, a shuttle driver on the Charleston docks who contracted the virus and spent weeks on leave. “There is no way for us to be six feet apart.”

The International Longshoremen Association, a union that represents approximately 65,000 longshoremen, lobbied the federal government and state officials for their support. In a September letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, union officials demanded that longshoremen be provided with personal protective equipment, disinfectant and rapid coronavirus tests, saying officials who operate the terminals where longshoremen operate no. ” provided no protective equipment to our members despite the risks of Covid-19. “

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