A recent report by progressive magazine In These Times gave voice to UPS delivery workers calling upon their company to do more to keep them safe from extreme heat. Representatives for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents UPS workers, told the publication that even as UPS’s profits have risen over the last several years, it has failed to protect its workers from rising temperatures. With a contract renegotiation on the horizon, union locals have pledged to launch a strike next summer if UPS continues leaving its employees to the mercy of oppressive heat and other abusive conditions.
One of the main problems cited by UPS delivery drivers is the lack of air conditioning in their trucks. Instead of installing AC units, the company has reportedly ramped up its efforts to install surveillance cameras, which “can record audio and video, making some workers feel they’re under constant watch for supposed safety reasons — while their true safety needs are going ignored.” Then there are UPS warehouses, many of which also lack air conditioning or effective ventilation, despite demands that low-paid “package handlers lift heavy boxes at a frantic pace.” As one Chicago-area UPS warehouse worker told In These Times, “We’re severely understaffed. We get paid less than Amazon, $15 an hour.”
Some workers describe being forced into overtime even after working five 12-hour days a week. “Once I worked 52 hours in five days and they threatened to write me up,” a Philadelphia driver told in These Times. “It’s only federal law that stops them from doing more.”
The president of the Teamsters reportedly hinted that the union might resort to a strike if UPS does not meet its demands during contract renegotiations this year, describing his plans to turn the union into “ more dynamic, more militant organization” that will “take on the fights.” A Philadelphia Teamsters official told In These Times that while workers hope not to have to strike, “if the company is unwilling to address these issues, we will be forced to put them on the street.”
More information on the conditions faced by UPS delivery and warehouse workers, including excessive heat, is available via In These Times.