As Coronavirus Spread, Financial Services Contractor Told Warehouse Workers They Aren’t Allowed to Get Sick

In a Long Island warehouse, immigrants work long hours doing mailings for a multibillion-dollar financial services company. Now they’re getting sick.

M. was midway through her 12-hour shift in late March, sorting financial documents in a cavernous Long Island warehouse, when a supervisor stopped by and handed her a flyer. Several days earlier, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had signed an executive order shutting down most businesses, but M.’s warehouse had remained open because its purpose — mailing and shipping — was defined as essential.

The flyer, written in Spanish, discouraged workers at TMG Mail Solutions, a mailing and printing contractor for businesses, from wearing gloves and masks unless they were sick or had compromised immune systems. In bold letters, the notice also warned, “If you don’t show up for work you will not be paid and after two days you will be considered to have abandoned your job.”

So the next morning, when M. woke up with a slight fever, she went to work, putting in another 12-hour shift without wearing a mask or gloves. She said that the company had not instituted any social distancing measures, and that she ate her lunch in a crowded cafeteria, sharing a table with approximately 10 other coworkers. Within a week, she would go to the hospital and, a few days after that, be diagnosed with Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus strain that has brought the world — but not M.’s warehouse — to a grinding halt.

The warehouse is leased by Broadridge Financial Solutions, a global financial services company with almost $4.4 billion in revenue last year, that employs thousands worldwide. But even as Broadridge was taking precautions to protect its own employees in the warehouse, its vendor, TMG, was taking a hardline approach that endangered its workforce. Not only were TMG workers discouraged from staying home when ill or protecting themselves, according to several employees, they also weren’t notified when their colleagues got sick.

The coronavirus crisis arrived at one of the busiest times of year for the mail and shipping warehouse — with long, grueling hours for employees. Type Investigations and The Intercept interviewed 14 current and former workers at TMG, nearly all of whom shared the same sentiment: They were scared to push back against the company because they needed their jobs.

“What can we do?” one worker said. “We are intimidated. We are afraid to be out of work. We have to pay rent, so we have to keep going.”

The Intercept and Type are not identifying the current TMG workers interviewed for this story by name because they fear retaliation.

A Broadridge spokesperson, Gregg Rosenberg, said that the company had been informed that TMG employees had tested positive for Covid-19, and that Broadridge had “mapped their contacts and notified any of its employees that were in direct contact with instructions to self-quarantine.” He said TMG is expected to notify its own employees.

TMG did not answer questions regarding whether any of its employees had tested positive and, if so, whether it had notified other workers. Another worker told The Intercept and Type Investigations that they were told to quarantine by a supervisor, but that when TMG was presented with a doctor’s note to the office, remarks by a supervisor at TMG suggested the worker’s job was in jeopardy. James T. Prusinowski, a lawyer representing TMG, did not respond to that specific allegation. He said the company “categorically denies any allegations or inferences that it did not take the necessary and appropriate actions or follow CDC guidelines concerning its employees related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Among the services Broadridge offers is investor communications, which includes the printing and shipping of financial documents — quarterly reports, proxy statements — from the Brentwood, New York, warehouse. Many of the people who do this work are Latina immigrants like M., who earn $13 an hour as employees of TMG, whose office is next to the warehouse and whose partnership with Broadridge goes back decades.

Workers have long shifts year-round, several employees said, but especially during the period from March to May they call “el proxy” — when proxy statements, government-mandated informational documents for shareholders of publicly traded companies, are printed and mailed. Workers said that, during el proxy, shifts can last up to 14 hours and some could go months without a single day off. One former employee said that during the five months she worked for the company last year, three people fainted while on the line. (TMG declined to address that allegation, and Broadridge said it was unaware of it.)

On Tuesday, the law firm of Getman, Sweeney & Dunn filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court against TMG and Broadridge, on behalf of the estimated 200 TMG employees at the warehouse, alleging that TMG failed to properly compensate employees for nonstandard work hours and overtime, as required by New York labor law. (A lawyer for TMG said the company adheres to all labor laws. Broadridge representative Rosenberg said “the company was unaware of such allegations and would refer you to TMG who pays their employees directly.” Neither company responded immediately to requests for comment after the lawsuit was filed.)

About the reporter

Gabriel Thompson

Gabriel Thompson

Gabriel Thompson is an author and independent journalist.