LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In mid-December, when the first vials of COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Kentucky, workers with Teamsters Local 89 played a pivotal role in delivering them from airplanes to arms.
“The people who took the vaccines off the planes and put them on UPS trucks were Teamsters,” said Avral Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer for the union that represents more than 16,000 workers in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. “The UPS truck drivers were Teamsters. We played a big role.”
On Friday, the vaccines came to them. In partnership with UofL Health, the Teamsters Local 89 hall in Louisville held a vaccine clinic for members, their families, and anyone else in the neighborhood who hasn’t yet been vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We believe that these vaccines will save lives,” said Thompson, who added that vaccine uptake among Teamsters has been high.
Other local unions, including the United Auto Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers, have helped organize vaccinations for members. Like churches, labor unions are seen as a trusted advocate by workers, making them natural hosts for vaccine clinics.
Thompson said bringing a pop-up clinic to the Taylor Boulevard union hall also gave locals a chance to walk or drive up for a vaccine, no appointment required. Administering the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine made the process even easier. “We were excited to help the community, along with our members,” Thompson said.
Levi Lessman and Carissa VanGlider were two of those members. The duo drove up from Valley Station around noon Friday after learning about the clinic from Teamsters fliers.
As essential workers, they’ve been eligible for vaccination in Kentucky for months. But it was the ease of Friday’s clinic that drew them out to get shots.
“It was really convenient not having to set up an appointment, just being able to come out and get it,” Lessman said.
VanGlider said it was meaningful to get the vaccine after participating in its rollout months before. "I feel really proud to have contributed," she said. "Not everyone can say that."