Teamsters president tells Trump not to reopen economy until safe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the 1.4-million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters union said on Wednesday he told President Donald Trump not to reopen the U.S. economy until it is safe.

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Jeff Bezos, the chief executive of Inc, and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Inc’s CEO, on Wednesday also participated in White House conference calls about how to reopen the economy in light of the coronavirus pandemic, company representatives said.

Trump said the calls provided a lot of good insights “on how to safely reboot our economy. .. We want to get our country open again.”

Teamsters President Jim Hoffa, who participated in one White House call, said in a statement he told Trump that all workers must have easy access to personal protective equipment, “sanitizer and a disinfected workplace” and “reliable testing.”

“Until we can ensure worker safety, we cannot put our members and workers at further risk by opening the economy up too soon,” Hoffa said in a statement, noting that 1 million Teamsters are working now.

Trump on Tuesday had said he was forming advisory groups on how to open up the country, which include other top U.S. executives such as Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook and JPMorgan Chase & Co chief Jamie Dimon.

The chief executive of Verizon Communications, Hans Vestberg, called the White House call useful. “Verizon and many other companies across the country are committed to finding ways of effectively doing business in the ‘new normal,’” he said in a statement.

Some 94% of Americans have been under government stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which causes the potentially lethal respiratory illness COVID-19. The orders, including mandatory business closures, have battered the U.S. economy and left millions of Americans unemployed.

Trump has turned to Corporate America to help plot a course forward. He has often sought business leaders’ assistance, as with a previously announced drive-through testing program with prominent retailers including Walmart Inc.

However, relations between the White House and Amazon - the world’s largest online retailer - have at times appeared strained. Trump, for instance, has described the Bezos-owned Washington Post as Amazon’s “chief lobbyist.” The top editor of the newspaper, which has published articles critical of the president, has said Bezos has no involvement in its news coverage.

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Additional reporting by Jeffrey Dastin and Katie Paul in San Francisco; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler