“As blistering heat waves swept across the United States this summer, breaking temperature records and placing millions under heat advisories and warnings,” Livia Albeck-Ripka writes at The New York Times, “workers… have continued to deliver America’s packages for a variety of carriers, often in trucks that have no cooling mechanisms for drivers. Some UPS workers have shared photographs that show thermometer readings of up to 150 degrees in the backs of their trucks.” A shocking number of package deliverers and letter carriers — to say nothing of farm workers, construction workers, warehouse workers, etc. — have reported heat-related injuries and illnesses, and some have even died on the job from heat exposure.
As climate change makes dangerous working conditions even worse for those who are exposed to extreme heat, workers, unions, and the public are demanding serious action be taken. In this urgent panel episode, we speak with Zakk, Gabriela, and Steve, three UPS package deliverers and members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, about the serious dangers of working in the heat and the fight they and their union are waging to ensure better protections for workers.
Prefer to read the interview? Keep scrolling for the full transcript from this episode.
- Gabriela’s Twitter page
- Zakk’s Facebook page and Twitter page
- International Brotherhood of Teamsters website, Facebook page, and Twitter page
- Teamsters for a Democratic Union website, Facebook page, and Twitter page
- Livia Albeck-Ripka, The New York Times, “UPS Drivers Say ‘Brutal’ Heat Is Endangering Their Lives“
- More Perfect Union, “UPS Drivers Are Dying Of Extreme Heat. The Company Doesn’t Care“
- Jordan Hart, Business Insider, “‘We’re Dying Out Here:’ After Death of 24-Year-Old UPS Worker in His Truck, Family Members, Other Workers Renew Calls for AC in Trucks, Warehouses“
- Working People, “(Unlocked) BONUS EPISODE – A Pivotal Moment for the Teamsters (w/ Indigo Olivier)“
- Working People, “‘We Are Essential,’ Pt I (Voices from the Covid-19 Crisis)“
- Denise Chow & Nigel Chiwaya, NBC News, “The US Could See a New ‘Extreme Heat Belt’ by 2053“
- Kelly Yamanouchi, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Teamsters Set Stage for Union Contract Battle with UPS“
Featured Music (all songs sourced from the Free Music Archive at freemusicarchive.org): Jules Taylor, “Working People Theme Song”
Automated voice: You have one new message.
Speaker: Hello, I’m 69 and a human being. I’m male, and my name is irrelevant. I am a US citizen. I’ve been around the block so many times that my tires are bald. I only know these independent news sites such as The Real News Network because of Chris Hedges. One day, I hope to have the courage he has. He’s my favorite, other than my wife. I formidably advocate the Railroaders. It is imperative that you take a stand. The minority cabal of profligates won’t stop until they have it all, just like Mary Trump’s description of Donald: too much and never enough. The cabal doesn’t care about you. They don’t care. You must be brave and take a stand. They don’t care about you.
[INTRO MUSIC PLAYS]
Gabriela: Hello, I’m Gabriela, a UPS Teamster of eight and a half years. I was in package for five years, delivering out of small package delivery trucks. And I was a part-timer for three and a half years. Very involved in my union in rank and file action and rank and file education. And yeah, thanks for having me.
Zakk: Hi, I am Zakk, and I am speaking from the hunting grounds, the trade exchange point and migration route for the Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, and Osage Nations, as well as the traditional home, the Caddo Nation, and Wichita tribes. Today, 39 tribal nations dwell in the state of Oklahoma as the result of settler and colonial policies that were designed to assimilate Native people. And I bring all that up because I want to acknowledge, honor, and respect the diverse peoples who have formed my understanding of solidarity, mutual aid, what they look like and how we embody those values in the midst of struggle. So, I’ve been at UPS as a Teamster for about five years. I’m a second generation Teamster out of local 886 in Oklahoma City.
Steve: Hey, I’m Steve. I’m a local Teamster out of the Mid-Atlantic. I’ve been a Teamster for about just under nine years. First union job. I just got into more union stuff after the last contract that was forced upon UPS, and now I’m here.
Maximillian Alvarez: All right, well welcome everyone to another episode of Working People, a podcast about the lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles of the working class today. Brought to you in partnership with In These Times magazine and The Real News Network, produced by Jules Taylor, and made possible by the support of listeners like you.
So, as y’all heard, we’ve got a very special and, frankly, quite urgent panel today. And I’m really honored to be joined by Steve, Gabriela, and Zakk, three Teamsters who have worked for, collectively, many years in package delivery for UPS.
And this is an episode that we’ve been wanting to do all summer. And folks have been asking us to record an episode on this, because we’ve all been hearing the reports about heat and the unbearable working conditions that folks like Steve, Gabriela, and Zakk have been going through. Package carriers, letter carriers across the board, not just at UPS, but folks are really, really going through it as the climate crisis gets worse, as the heat waves get hotter. There was just a new goddamn report saying that the middle corridor, most of the middle of the country is going to be experiencing heat of 130 degrees in the next 25 years.
And while that all sounds terrible, we have to remember that folks are still working through all of that. As hot as it was this summer, not just here in the US, but I mean, Jesus, the entire global map was blistering red and orange for most of the summer, in India and Pakistan, in parts of Africa and the Caribbean, South America, it’s getting hot. And a lot of working people, through no fault of their own, are having to bear the brunt of that. Farm workers are absolutely boiling in the heat. Package deliverers, like we said, are driving around in these metal hot boxes that reach temperatures of 150 degrees in there, and they’re expected to work with no air conditioning.
You guys remember a few episodes ago, we spoke to a Dollar store worker in Louisiana, Kenya Slaughter, who revealed to us that they don’t even control the air conditioning in their own stores. So when they are suffering blistering heat waves and they’re sweating their asses off while trying to work at Dollar General with one or two people, the air conditioning for that store is being controlled by corporate headquarters in another state. This is a real, systemic problem that working people are dealing with across industries. And the way that we are headed right now with the climate crisis, it is only going to get worse.
And so, we wanted to convene this panel to talk about what workers are going through, what folks out there listening need to understand about the working conditions that folks like Steve, Gabriela, and Zakk deal with on a day-to-day basis, what can be done about it, what is being done about it, and what we can all do to help to ensure that workers are not subjected to inhumane working conditions that are dangerous and even deadly. People do die from this stuff. We’re not kidding around here. And just to really put a fine point on that, I’m going to read a couple of passages from a piece that just came out this week at The New York Times. The New York Times is not always knocking it out of the park, to put it nicely. But I mean, I thought this –
Zakk: But it is the paper of record.
Maximillian Alvarez: It is the paper of record, and I think it is significant that they did cover this. And I’m going to read from a piece that was written by Livia Albeck-Ripka, titled “UPS drivers say brutal heat is endangering their lives”. Livia writes:
“As blistering heat waves swept across the United States this summer, breaking temperature records and placing millions under heat advisories and warnings, workers have continued to deliver America’s packages for a variety of carriers, often in trucks that have no cooling mechanisms for drivers. Some UPS workers have shared photographs that show thermometer readings of up to 150 degrees in the backs of their trucks.
“Now a string of heat-related illnesses among the drivers has renewed calls to improve their working conditions. ‘They’re vomiting. Their bodies are shutting down,’ said Dave Reeves, the president of local 767, a Texas local of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents 350,000 UPS workers across the country. He added, ‘It’s awful.’ Government records show that the problem is not isolated. Since 2015, at least 270 UPS and United States postal service drivers have been sickened, and in many cases, hospitalized from heat exposure. Dozens of workers for other delivery companies including FedEx have also suffered from heat exhaustion, according to the records, and a handful of drivers have also died in the past few years. According to the Teamsters, heat-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths among drivers are severely under reported.”
So that’s what we’re here to talk about today. And again, I could not be more grateful to Steve, Gabriela, and Zakk for being willing to come on and chat with us. Folks may recognize a familiar voice here, because Zakk has actually been on the show before. And he was one of the amazing workers who submitted audio testimony during the first few months of COVID-19 when we did that big, two-part, six-hour compilation of testimonies from workers talking about what they were going through in that really horrible time when no one knew what was going on, everyone was scared. So it’s a gift, and I wanted to acknowledge up top that if you go back and listen to that and how scared we all were, I think it’s worth stopping and recognizing and being grateful for hearing Zakk’s voice again, knowing that life continues. And that I’m really, really grateful that we’re all able to be here today to talk about this.
And I also want to make a disclaimer up top that we are all here to discuss this important issue. And I want everyone on this panel to feel comfortable and able to say their piece and not have to worry about anything else. And so, I wanted to make it clear up top that everyone here is speaking as an individual worker. They’re speaking about what they have gone through. No one here is speaking as a representative or speaking for a larger membership. I think that what we’re going to talk about here is going to be recognizable to a lot of workers, but I don’t want to give the false impression here that anyone here is speaking on behalf of the Teamsters or a specific local. We are speaking as fellow workers dealing with a real huge problem that we all need to acknowledge and address.
So in that vein, enough from me, enough table setting, I wanted to start. Before we really start digging into that question of heat and the brutal working conditions that UPS drivers are enduring, especially now in the summer, I was wondering if we could go around the table and just familiarize or refamiliarize listeners with you all, and get a bit of a snapshot of who you are and the kind of work that you’ve been doing at UPS. So on the normal show, we like to really go deep into people’s back stories and how they came to be the people they are, how they came to do the work they do. So maybe a condensed version of that, just so we get to know the three of y’all a bit more. So can we talk a bit about you and how you got into this work, and I guess what that work has entailed in your time at UPS?
Gabriela: My name’s Gabriela, I live in the Southwestern part of the United States. And one thing about the Southwest is it’s very, very hot. I think, Max, you touched on so many issues that I want to talk about like climate change, the heated trucks, how bad it gets in the back, that this affects all workers that work outside. A little bit about me up front, UPS worker for three and a half years. I spent five years in the summers of package cars delivering in that heat. It’s unbearable. I don’t know if I personally can’t handle it as well as other people can, but just last year I was really considering just walking off. I couldn’t handle it anymore. Especially where I’m from, it’s so dry and it’s so hot. Three years ago I bought a thermometer and I put it in the back of my truck and it maxes out at 127 degrees.
And the first day I used it, it maxed out at 127. It was above 127. I had no idea how hot, and I had to get a new one. Anyway, but to my husband, he’s a mail carrier. So we both work outside in the excruciating heat doing physical jobs.
But a little bit about me. My dad was a Teamster. He wasn’t a long-term Teamster, but when I started at UPS, he told me, stick with it. He said that he wished he had. He actually, unfortunately, quit in 1997, right at the strike. When he first told me that story, I thought, oh my God, dad, did you scab? But no, he said the strike happened, and I don’t think he really understood what was going on. And he was like, I guess I don’t have a job anymore. I was like, cool. Yeah, that’s the right move. If you’re not going to hang out with the picket line, don’t cross it, you might as well just get another job, I guess.
So I’m technically a second generation Teamster. But anyway, I come from a fairly non-union background. My dad’s in trucking and my mom did service work jobs. Both my parents had non-union jobs for the most part. And then when I started working UPS, a truly union job and being represented by the Teamsters, entirely changed my perspective, entirely changed who I am in my core, gave me a great sense of purpose in my life that we have the real ability to fight for working class people. And I think that that’s something I could never give up. I also literally could never work a non-union job, because every time I have, they fired me. So once you become union, it’s impossible to go back. You just have too much dignity, I think. But yeah, no, that’s a bit about me.
Zakk: All right, this is Zakk. I guess it’s my turn. Before I came to UPS, I worked in nonprofits. I worked in the nonprofit sector for about 10 years for Habitat for Humanity, most recently in Cleveland county. And we were putting people in homes. Before that, I ran the vocations program and education program called Start at the local homeless shelter here in Norman, Oklahoma. And I loved that. Before that, it was case managing homeless families and people who have to live out in this heat all the time. So that is part of my perspective. I went to UPS because a good union job meant stability and security for my family. I had my dad’s example to look at and how he took care of seven kids. And when I married into three kids and had two kids and adopted two kids and then had seven of my own, having a union job made a whole lot of sense.
Although I loved what I was doing in the nonprofit world, it turned out that I could make more money by delivering cardboard boxes, and that’s what I needed to do. That’s what I needed to do for my family. They needed the insurance that my job provides. And so, union work is not easy work, it is hard work, but working people, we know how to work hard. Working class folks, they know how to work hard. So when I started at UPS, I was a part-timer in the building and loading trucks, and I worked seven days a week. I worked five days at UPS, Monday through Friday. And on Saturday and Sunday, I worked at the inpatient psychiatric hospital in the nursing department and took care of people that way.
And when I had an opportunity to stand up as a steward and to help protect my coworkers at work, I jumped on it. I get to listen to that inner voice. I get to follow that calling of protecting people and helping people and lifting people out of really bad circumstances. I get to do that at work every day, and that is super, super powerful. And you don’t get that in a non-union job. So I’m with Gaby, I couldn’t go back.
Also, we were applying for government contracts and funding and nonprofit stuff, and that pie kept getting smaller and smaller and smaller. I think that when working people come together, we can make the pie bigger for everybody. So that’s my perspective. I’ve been doing package delivery for about four years now, but I carry all of that stuff with me when I show up to work every day. And so, when I look at the transportation sector that I work in, and I know that we are the leading source of global warming pollution, it makes me wonder what I can do as an employee. It makes me wonder what I can do as a Teamster. It makes me wonder what I can do as a member of a community that doesn’t want my kids to burn up.
I mean, it’s fucking hot, and delivery trucks and tractor trailers are responsible for half of the nitrogen oxide emissions, 60% of all the fine particulate bullshit that’s in the air that is cooking the planet. So I guess, I approach work, even something that seems as simple as I’m just a delivery boy, I approach it through all of those lenses, and I’m not the only one. Working people are smart. We have a lot of time to think.
Steve can tell you, we drive around for 12, 13 hours a day up until our Department of Transportation maximum, because that’s where the company has us work a lot of times. We have a lot of time to think about these things and think about what a better world could look like, what a better workplace could look like for all of us. And that’s why we’re here, that’s why we’re on this podcast. And that’s why we’re talking to you. And so, thanks for bringing us here.
Maximillian Alvarez: Hell yeah, brother. And well, just to say you’re triggering my anxiety now that I work at a nonprofit, so thank you for that. Steve, how about you, man?
Steve: Yeah. So I’m Steve, I’ve been package car delivering for about nine years now, just under. This is the first union job I ever had. Before this, I was in retail management. I was in recruiting, and I finally got to join UPS, and it was a weird path. I went straight into package car. A lot of people don’t do that. A lot of people go inside the building, and I was a lucky member who went straight into delivering in 100 degree heat right away. But my journey is, before UPS, I didn’t know honestly what union work was. And it sounds weird, my father has always been in business, always been like CFO, CEO stuff, treasury, everything like that.
And I knew of unions. I’ve heard the word, but I never knew the type of work it was. I never knew how much protection you had with the union and how much they could actually be helpful for everyday people like us, everyday working people. And like I said, I’ve been with UPS nine years, wouldn’t change that for the world. I love the people I work with. It’s literally, when you get put in situations like we’ve been put in, especially over the pandemic and everything, you become closer to these people. You want to do better for these people. You want us to have a safe work environment. You want us to be able to come home every day and not worry about things like, oh, did I drink enough water? Even though I had a gallon of water at work today.
It’s touching on Zakk’s thing. We’re here because we want people to hear our thoughts and see where we’re coming from and that we are regular people, but we do a very hard job, and the union is here to protect us, and we have to get the word out about that.
Maximillian Alvarez: Hell, yeah. Well, and let’s drill down on that, because I think it’s one of those things that people know in the back of their heads, but like climate change itself, we try to not focus on as much as possible. I don’t know, everyone has their different reasons. Maybe we just got too much shit we’re worrying about in our own lives. Maybe we don’t want to recognize our complicity in this, and feel guilty about the workers who are delivering our packages while dripping sweat and staggering up to our doors. Capitalism is a brutal system that forces all of us to act out our own inhumanity.
So for whatever reason, I think this has been an issue that a lot of us have pushed under the rug. What exactly workers like yourselves go through in brutal summer heat conditions like what we’ve been experiencing this year. And I can say, speaking for myself, I got my own crash course in that about 10 years ago. All my life in Southern California, driving around Orange County, driving from Orange County to LA County and back. There are these massive beige buildings festooning the freeways. If you’re driving up the 60, you’re driving up the five, you just see these things all over the place. And as a kid, I never really knew what was in those buildings. I just knew that they were there. They were part of the background. Then I ended up working at one of those, and it was a warehouse, and it was hot as shit. It was Southern California. There was no air conditioning in these massive warehouses. They’re made out of metal. So it’s like working in a microwave. You would actually go outside in the blistering heat to cool off.
And guess in that way, for a small time, I was part of the supply chain that you all are very much a part of and keep running, because we would be tagging, stacking, wrapping, and loading pallets onto trucks that would then ship off, yada, yada, yada. Anyway, the point being is that it was hot as shit in there. All of us were constantly dripping sweat. I did see people… We didn’t call it that, but clearly suffering from heat exhaustion.
And the thing that really upsets me, thinking about it now, was not just that we were subjected to that, as were workers in countless other types of warehouses like that, as were the workers like yourselves who are delivering those packages to people in Southern California. But what upsets me is thinking about it, it reminds me of when I played football in high school in Southern California. I mean, this is not PC, but just to give people a sense like, the saying was, water’s for pussies. And if we were doing two-a-day practices in the brutal summer August heat and you wanted to get a drink of water, there was this dumb fucking hyper-masculine bullshit where if you didn’t drink water you were more tough. Guys were throwing up. That’s fucking stupid. Pardon my –
Zakk: It’s so stupid.
Maximillian Alvarez: It’s so stupid.
Zakk: It’s so stupid.
Gabriela: That’s some crazy teenage boy stuff.
Maximillian Alvarez: It is, and people died every year. There were kids like myself who would die from heat exhaustion. And I think, finally, the state collective was like, okay, this is bad and dumb and unnecessary. But the reason I bring it up is that in the warehouse there was even that sense. A lot of the folks had been in prisons. A lot of the folks were tough dudes, and there still was that stigma about speaking up about the horrible conditions we were working in.
Zakk: It seems to be this machismo toxic masculinity bullshit.
Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah.
Zakk: I remember that from two-a-days playing football here in Oklahoma, and it was, no, you just push through it. You just push through it. And as drivers, we do that all the time. When you’re out there in that heat, you are going nuts from it. Your body temperature’s high, you’re not sweating, you’re red, you’re hot, your pulse is just pumping, you’re busy, you’re confused, and you should drink some fucking water.
But the message that you get from either the other kids on your team or management or this internalized BS, is push through it and keep going and you’ll be fine. But some people are not fine. And that’s why it’s important to have these conversations like this, because some people are not fine. We have underlying health issues. I’ve got an autoimmune disease. There are lots of things that make us people and that make us workers, those things do not go away when we enter the company gates. And yeah, so pushing through it and not drinking water because it’s not a macho thing to do, it’s not a safe thing to do, either.
Maximillian Alvarez: Right. And I want to be very clear. The reason that I mentioned that is not to put this on the workers. UPS and the employers are the ones who are subjecting workers to these conditions. I say it because we want to acknowledge what you just said, Zakk, is that for folks who are maybe listening to this and who think that this is just part of the job, it’s not. You don’t have to go through this, you shouldn’t have to go through this, and it’s okay to speak up and say, this sucks. This is dangerous. And we want to make it clear up front that it’s okay to not want to be subjected to this.
And so building on that, I was wondering if we can go back around the table and talk about what that work looks like on a day-to-day basis, working in the summer as a UPS driver, what maybe folks on the customer side see, or don’t see, that y’all are going through. Could you paint us a picture of what working in that heat, whether you’re in the Southwest, Mid-Atlantic, or Oklahoma, what that entails.
Gabriela: Absolutely. Okay, people need to understand that UPS, especially package delivery, is a different job than any job that you’ve probably ever done. I talk to some of my friends, and they can stop working and look at their phone for five minutes, sometimes 20 minutes. Even one minute at UPS in package delivery, you cannot stop for longer. You really can’t stop, period. But no worker, no delivery driver is ever going to stop for longer than one minute, because we have over 200 sensors inside the engine of our truck that tracks us. We’re starting to get cameras inside the cab of our trucks that track us.
Management… Sorry, I’m talking too fast because I’m angry. Management is sitting in their air conditioned offices watching every single thing that you do. You’re trained in the 340 methods, which is 340 different things to describe your job exactly how you’re supposed to do it. I mean, if we were in-person, I could show you. We could all show you exactly the methods for how to pick up a box, how to walk up to the house, how to get in your truck, how to pull away from a curb. It’s extreme. It’s a very high stress job. And there are so many rules.
And if you start to care about your safety – And they’ll do liability, they’ll act like they care about your safety. They’ll tell you to drink water, they’ll tell you all the stuff, blah, blah, blah. But at the end of the day, the way that this job functions does not work for human beings. Working in 107 degree heat does not work for human beings. Working in a truck that does not have AC or ventilation in the back where it gets to over 130 degrees doesn’t work for human beings. And not being able to stop, I mean, I know they will say you can stop if you’re really hot, take a break, but you know that the next day that they’re going to harass you and ask you, why did you stop blah, blah? And you say, oh, I was feeling really hot.
You legally have the right to stop working in unsafe working conditions. So if you need to take a break from the heat, then you’re allowed to do that. But then they’re going to try to push you to clock out for your lunch or clock out for your break. So that’s what it’s like working for UPS, and it’s insane. I will say that people drink a lot of water, in my experience working in the Southwest. People drink a lot of water. They’re pretty good at Gatorade and stuff like that. But then another thing, just the stress of the job, people don’t want to break off to go to a gas station because they’re afraid of harassment. They’re trying to get off work on time because it’s still really hot at 6:00 PM. So if you can get off work early, it’s even better.
And also, I want to say, we really can’t forget, too, about our – And I’m glad you brought it up, Max – Our inside warehouse employees, the part-timers and the combo workers. When I was part-time, I saw workers pass out. I saw workers who had to sit down because they were very hot. I saw workers throw up. And actually, when I was part-time, we started documenting all instances of heat sickness as us part-timers. And then we started to document all instances of heat sickness, we started a campaign to get fans in the building, we made buttons. We got $10 an hour, and we ordered buttons. It was a whole paycheck for me. But we made a petition and we stood in front of the building at UPS, and we had everybody sign the petition. We had over 250 signatures, and we had a rag-tag group of rank and filers confront the boss and tell our manager and plant engineering, and the building manager, we said, hey, we want to have meetings with you as part-timers.
And they were like, who does that? They were like, I barely even want to meet with the union, why would I meet with some part-timers? Like, you guys don’t even have a union rep. But we did. We forced them to have meetings with us. And we talked to them about all the people who were sick. We showed them the petition. We would not let up. I think we made stickers ‚too. We had people wear the buttons. And then won our demands. We won all of our demands, and we got fans installed in the building. So that’s the difference that you can have in a union job is that, well, one, you have a legally binding contract that we negotiate every five years. But two, you have the legal right to organize on behalf of your coworkers, it’s called concerted activity, in any job, union or not, but in a union job, you really have it, because they can’t actually fire you for it.
In a non-union job, they might say you’re fired for wearing the wrong shoes today. But you have worker power in a union job, and you can change your contract. So maybe we can get some climate change language in, AC, ventilation, get more fans in the building for part-timers in the warehouse. I don’t see why we can’t have AC in the warehouse. Or two, we can do actions outside the building. We can do petitions. We can do everything it takes to make sure that our workers are safe, that this is a good job, and that our people aren’t dying on the job, or they’re not passing out on the job.
Zakk: I want to piggyback on some of that, because UPS is the leading company in logistics. It’s a global transportation and logistics company. It sets the pace for all the other companies. And we like that. As Teamsters, we love that. We’re working for the number one company in the world that is doing this sort of work. We know that we are a critical component of the companies, of our customer supply chains, and that gives us a lot of pride in the work that we do. I mean, we deliver your vaccines. We deliver people’s medicine and their food. We deliver people’s wine. All of that stuff, we deliver pets to the pet stores. I don’t know if people know that. That stuff is in the back of my package car, I am taking lizards and stuff to the pet store. I’m taking people’s snakes and their fish and their coral to their house.
So, that stuff is back there in 150 degrees, too. UPS is number one in this game, and they’ve got an opportunity to have an environmentally sustainable and economically viable way to keep their workforce healthy and continuing to bring those big profits in. We want to deliver for our stakeholders, for the shareholders. Being in Oklahoma and knowing how important environmental stewardship is… The Dust Bowl happened here. We’ve seen what environmental degradation looks like. That’s my background. That’s my people’s background. And so, seeing big organizations or this organization not address these issues head-on is a problem. They’ve got the money to invest in the systems, the procedures, the equipment, the operating processes, all of these things to keep us safe, to keep us safe while we’re at work, and to continue generating all these great shareholder profits.
We make a lot of money for this company. The folks inside who are sweating and working hard, they make a lot of money for this company, the number one logistics company in the world. And Amazon, who is not there, but they went to be there, they invested, years ago, a few million dollars to put air conditioning inside all of their hubs. So Amazon has air conditioning in their buildings. I know because I deliver to DOK4, I deliver to one of the Amazon buildings. And when I want to take a break and sort my UPS package car, I go inside the Amazon building, I open up all the doors, I let all the heat escape my car, and I go from 130 degrees to 88 degrees in a matter of minutes. That is something powerful. The folks working in –
Gabriela: That’s so fucked up.
Zakk: Isn’t that insane?
Gabriela: Thanks, Bezos. [Max laughs][crosstalk] something good.
Zakk: I’m not so sure about sending Jeff Bezos to space, but those Bezos bucks put air conditioning in their hubs. And we have folks sitting in our executive suite right now in air conditioning – And they may or may not be listening to this podcast, I really hope they are – But I want to make sure that they know that Amazon, their competition, their competition has air conditioning, and we deserve it too. The idea that giving us air conditioning, that it’s not going to be efficient because we open the doors and we’re in and out, the capital market assumptions here, the long-term estimates of financial risk and reward, they’ve got to reflect the reality of climate change.
And the notion that investing in our safety as drivers is going to be a net cost to the company’s bottom line, to their bottom line. That’s bull hockey, man. UPS can avoid climate-related economic deterioration, they can improve their risk asset returns with a green transition to sustainable technologies. They can lead the way. They can partner with the Teamsters to provide a healthy and safe workplace, resilient supply chain networks that will lower inflation and deliver returns for investors. I mean, we’re in a global pandemic, there’s economic uncertainty, there’s social unrest, and this company has an opportunity to come to the table with its workers, to come to the table with our union and make it better. And I hope that they do it.
Steve: Yeah. I mean just building off of what these two guys, or these two have been saying, what people don’t understand is, one thing, whenever we say, hey, maybe air conditioning or better ventilation in the cargo would be amazing, and what you’ll hear from management would be, oh, it actually wouldn’t be helpful to you guys. It wouldn’t make that big of a difference. And then what people don’t understand is, I personally drive 40 minutes from the hub to my route. And then when I’m done with my route, I drive, depending on traffic, 45 to an hour back to the hub. For them to say, hey, yeah, air conditioning wouldn’t work then. 45 minutes of having air conditioning on me after a day in 110 degree heat index, that wouldn’t help? That’s what I just find… It’s just insane. For them to be able to say these words and to know that they’re lying, is crazy to me.
Gabriela: My friend works for FedEx, drives the exact same model of truck that we do, and he has AC in his truck, and he says it does make a difference. [Max chuckles]
Steve: Right, exactly. And that’s what’s funny is they just say the things because they think we’ll just let it go. We’re done letting these things go. We’re done. I think in my hub, we had another driver go to the emergency room last week, to be honest. But they won’t, they’ll be like, oh it was a stomach thing. I’m like, or it was heat-related because he couldn’t sweat anymore and all these things, but they’re just like, no, couldn’t be that. And one of the biggest things I try to let people know is, yeah, when I’m driving with my doors open, the wind does feel good. I can deal with some of these things. The problem is when you open the cargo and it’s 115 to 130 degrees in there, and they’re like, oh there’s this smallest little ventilation thing. You’re like, nothing goes in there. Nothing helps get into that thing. It literally does nothing to make anything cooler. It doesn’t do anything to fix the situation that we’re in, like I said.
And I wanted to reinforce this whole, oh, they say you can take a break, but they don’t exactly mean that. They mean, oh, take 10 minutes of your lunch break. Take 10 minutes of your paid union break. But what’s funny is they don’t want you to have extra overtime because we can grieve excessive overtime over three days at UPS. So it’s like Gabriela touched on. It’s like, oh you take a break. Why are you going slower today? You’re going to have a meeting in the morning. You had this many stops, why did it take you longer?
Oh the fact that it’s 110 degree heat index has nothing to do with how fast I go. I guess I should work the same amount of speed in this, rather than that. Yeah. I mean these two have touched on basic points and I just wanted to give my thoughts on that. At the same time, I wanted to touch on one real quick thing that Zakk talked about. I was delivering animals. My first week on the job by myself, I was delivering crickets to Petco or PetSmart or whatever it was. And another box falls on top of the crickets, and I had a 1,000 crickets in my truck –
Maximillian Alvarez: Oh, shit.
Steve: …The whole day. It was the worst. I just wanted to end on that part.
Zakk: I had the same thing happen with mealworms. A box of mealworms broke open on my shelf – And those shelves are made of metal, and it’s 150 degrees, you can bake cookies on our shelves. And so these living things are cooking on my shelves, and I can smell them in the back of the package car for days. And there’s not enough staff that work in our car wash to get the package car’s really clean, and they’re rushed out. Our folks inside the hub, they know what it’s like. They don’t want you to have overtime, but they let you work three and a half hours a day. And they want you to do X number of package cars a day. And it’s just a lot.
I wanted to jump in here because you talked about opening the bulkhead door, and all that heat that comes out hits you in the face. It’s like opening an oven. We won fans in the last contract – What a crazy thing, that you have to win a fan to keep you cool. What a crazy thing that you have to win it, that you gotta fight for that. But we have to fight for every dime, every dollar in our workplaces, which is why collective action is so important.
Anyway, I’m looking at this, boom, how to stay safe when extreme heat threatens. This is from FEMA. And one thing that they have on this FEMA shit – Sheet. Shit. [Max laughs] I’m sorry, Freudian slip – It says, do not use electric fans when the temperature outside is more than 95 degrees. You could increase the risk of heat-related illness. Fans create airflow and a false sense of comfort, but do not reduce body temperature. And that’s one thing that I want to mention. The fans, they will cool us down, and a breeze is super important.
It’s great that I get to drive around with my doors open. That breeze, that air flow is super, super important. But my day begins when I leave the building at 9:00 AM, and some days I am out there, 12, 13 hours. And the back of that package car builds up very, very, very quickly to over 100 degrees. So I’m over 95 degrees. I’m in hot temperatures all day. It’s not, well you step in and you step out. There is metabolic heat that your body generates from motion, just the basic stuff that helps keep you alive. But then, the fact that we exert so much physical energy to move all of this stuff, all of this medicine, all of this food, all of this toilet paper, all of this stuff that our customers need, that metabolic heat combines with environmental heat, so temperature, sunlight humidity, and that stuff equals your core worker temperature.
And when that temperature gets too high, it doesn’t matter how much water you drink. That helps, but it doesn’t bring down that internal temperature quick enough. And I learned that when my doctor told me that the symptoms I had last week were the symptoms of a heat stroke, that when I was cramping and my hands were unable to open, when I fell against the wall and I couldn’t figure out how to get up off of it, she told me that’s a heat stroke. What you have is your body is breaking down the proteins that you need to stay alive. So, that’s what was happening to me. And I didn’t know it until after the fact.
And there are a lot of people inside our building and inside our package cars, there are people in your neighborhood, in your community right now in package cars, out on the street, in front of your house, and they’re having these problems. So we, as Teamsters, as workers, as people, we hope that you guys will say something about it, and that we can push this company to do the right thing by the communities that they operate in.
Steve: Yeah, I guess going off on Zakk, when you think about how long we are outside on a daily basis, I clock in at 8:45 every morning, and hopefully I’ll be home by 7:45, 8:00. That’s just how it is sometimes, and some days it’s even longer. And the fact that by the time you get in your car that’s already in a hot building, and then you leave the hot building to get in direct sunlight and it starts cooking you, is not healthy whatsoever. Nothing about that says safe, nothing about that says comfortable, nothing about that says anything helpful for us to do our jobs, to be the workers that we’re supposed to be. And all we’re asking for is a little relief, a little help. And I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.
Gabriela: Well, sometimes people go out with about 300 stops. It’s not uncommon to have that high amount of stops. My route would go out with 200 after the pandemic, they really slammed my route with even more stops than I could handle. And then that would have, the 200 stops, that’s not 200 packages total. It’s about 260 packages, because some houses have multiple packages. And when you look inside the truck, if you ever have the great pleasure to look inside of a UPS truck in the morning, it is packed front to back.
Zakk: Don’t do it! Don’t do it!
Gabriela: There’s no way to walk through it. It packed all the way to the ceiling, it’s bad.
Zakk: It’s real bad!
Gabriela: And so, when you have that many packages inside of your truck, naturally you’re not going to be able to find them immediately. So you’re actually going to spend a lot of time in the back of the truck. When it is 130 degrees in the back of the truck, there’s no airflow, you’re back there… There would be times where I was trying very hard to find the package. I would be in the back there for maybe 45 seconds, and I had to tell myself, I cannot be back here, because if I pass out in the back of this truck, nobody’s going to find me. Nobody’s going to come up to me. No, one’s going to look inside my package car to find out if I’m okay.
It’s probably going to take a few hours for management to even figure out if anything went wrong. My best hope would be that somebody wanted to rob the package car and came in and saw that I was back there. They just decided to walk in. It’s really dangerous. My best friend, actually, at work, he was trying to pass the probation period at UPS, and the standards that they have them at to get past what we call packet, the probation period for new drivers, it’s just ridiculous, especially in the summer heat. And he actually ended up throwing up outside of a hospital. And I believe his wife was outside the hospital with him. He was on the job, and he was feeling so sick. There was something very, very wrong.
And management came and met him outside of the hospital, outside of the ER, and he was throwing up and they told him, please, they’re like, don’t go in the ER, don’t go in the ER. We’ll take you to Concentra, the work doctor. I’ve been to that work doctor, we all have stories about the work doctor. It’s a complete bullshit doctor that does not help you. His wife laid down the law, and so he was like, no, we’re going to go in this hospital. We think that he needs to go in this hospital. They went in there, he was suffering from kidney failure, and he was hospitalized overnight. They had to give him tons of fluids. I don’t know if the work doctor even has those materials. When I hurt myself, they actually didn’t even have a brace to give me when I went there once. The standards are so high.
And sorry, one more thing I actually wanted to talk about is, we’re touching on, it’s not just the heat of the job, but also you got to think of the sun exposure and skin cancer. That’s a huge deal. And the sun also just burns you alive. But also wildfires. Last summer, we had so many wildfires in the West, and the air would blow from states over into our state, and where we were the air would be trapped because of the geography of where we live, or where I live. And you’d be working outside, sometimes, when we would have the worst air quality in the world because of the wildfires.
And like that photo from a couple years ago in Oregon with the wildfires, and it was completely red. Workers have to keep working in that, UPS workers, FedEx workers, mail carriers, et cetera. With climate change coming up, the wildfires are going to get crazy, the weather is going to get more insane. It’s not only going to get hotter, but we’re going to get crazier weather storms like blizzards, excessive heat, et cetera. Honestly, we need laws for working class people who are outside. There needs to be some kind of law that you shouldn’t have to work outside when the air quality is that bad, because the government recommends that people don’t even go outside, people who don’t even have health conditions. First, it’s the health conditions, the elderly and everything like that, and then they’re like, nobody should go outside. It was like, okay then why am I working 12 hours a day doing physical labor? You’re telling people not to even do physical activity outside, and this is my job.
And with the postal workers as well, like mail carriers, my husband’s a mail carrier, they’re working for the government. The government needs to do something about their job. By the way, I know I’m talking for a while, but shout to mail carriers, because we have really difficult and hot jobs, but for mail carriers who deliver out of their trucks and they don’t get out and do walking rounds, they have to keep their windows up and their doors shut, and they don’t have any AC or airflow at all. They can’t roll down their windows, because the mail could fly out or something. That job is very, very hot. So we have a shared issue with our mail carriers. And they haven’t had updated trucks in like 50 years.
Zakk: And when they are trying to get their trucks updated, they’ve got political appointees who are trying to keep electric cars from air conditioning happening. This Louis DeJoy cat that is in charge of the postal workers is running the service into the ground. The postal service is older than the country. I really appreciate our letter carriers. And I want to mention that the postal workers, they’re unionized workers, too. We’ve got the NALC and APWU. There are unions for postal workers and they are super, super important.
Our working conditions at UPS and at the postal service are super, super difficult, but they are made better because we have a union and we have recourse when something wrong happens. That does not happen at Amazon. That does not happen at FedEx. They are contractors. They are subject to at-will employment. If the boss wants to fire you and put his brother-in-law in that job, he can. You don’t have any rights. But when you have a union, you’ve got just cause, they can’t just get rid of you because of whatever. I think that bringing up our letter carriers, bringing up our laborers, folks who are working outside all the time is super, super important, because this is not just us at UPS. It’s not just us as working people with the postal service. It’s not just us working anywhere. It’s all of us.
Most heat-related illnesses occur because of overexposure to heat and over-exercising. And we both, once upon a time they called us industrial athletes. I don’t know if you guys remember any of that stuff. Industrial athletes. And it’s true, we work like athletes. We are trained to have the physicality of athletes out there. But during the 10 years from 1999 to 2009, an average of 658 people died each year from heat in the United States. That was, what, 20 years ago, 10 years ago? That number’s just set to go up. We know that folks who live in urban areas have a greater risk from prolonged heat than those in rural areas because of the heat island effect. All that concrete reflects all this heat at you.
When you are delivering in a neighborhood that is in town versus delivering in a neighborhood in the country, it feels differently. And so, we’ve got to do something. We’ve got to do something all over this country, because there is a combination of the heat going up and the humidity going up, people are getting heat cramps, they’re getting heat exhaustion, they’re getting heat stroke, and they’re dying out there, and we’re going to see more and more of it as the climate catastrophe gets worse. It’s already happening. There are practical things that the company can do to invest in their workers, to invest in the infrastructure. They can put air conditioning in their buildings.
They can put roof-mounted air conditioning or exhaust vents in the back of the package cars to draw that humid, hot air out. There are RVs. They exist. People have a need for this stuff already.
And there are solutions for it already, and the money is already there. So do we invest in stock buybacks, or do we invest in the core thing that makes our company profitable? The company has a decision to make. Carol Tomé and the people who are on the board, they have a decision to make. And our customers, when they have a choice of who is shipping their stuff, they have a decision to make, too. And I want them to make that decision with all of the information. And so, that’s why this podcast is really important, because they may not have all the information. That’s the assumption I’m going to make. I’m gonna tell you, it’s hot and people are dying, and you can do something about it. So there’s the information. Please do something about it. Please, we need you to. We’re in your neighborhoods, we’re in your communities.
We’re delivering to your schools. We’re delivering to your pharmacies. We bring you your food. We bring you your medicine. We bring you your wine so you can have brunch. I love brunch. There’s nothing wrong with brunch. So if you were getting packages that are too hot to touch, think about it. That has been in the back of a package car for maybe 10 hours. So have I, so has Steve, so has Gabriela, and there are 330,000 Teamsters at UPS. We’re sick of it. We’re done with this stuff. It’s not okay, we’re over it. And so, we’re looking for victory in 2023, and we are working towards that. And part of that is conversations like this, conversations with Steve and Gabriela and Max. So thanks for bringing us to this table, bro.
Maximillian Alvarez: Oh, of course. And I can’t thank y’all enough for giving folks that vital information. And I hope people at the company hear this too so that they can really understand the human stakes and the day-to-day realities of what’s going on here. And that everyone listening to this who has ever mailed or received a package, this is something we all need to care about. And we all have a role in pushing for better working conditions for folks like Steve, Gabriela, Zakk, and everyone around the country. And again, just to really underscore what we’re looking at, this isn’t going away. We can’t give into this magical thinking that it’s like, oh, it’s been hot in the past. It’ll go away. Again. We just had a study published last week, showing the emergence of an “extreme heat belt” basically covering the entire Midwest and the Plains States.
And some people may nonchalantly be like, well, I don’t live there. It’s not my problem. Well, a lot of people do live there. A lot of people work there. A lot of people are going to be expected to deal with it. And one note that I wanted to make as we round the final turn, because I could talk to you guys forever, but I know I got to let you go. And I want us to round out by talking about that contract fight, talking about what is being done or what can be done to get air conditioning in these trucks, to get better air conditioning in the warehouses, to overall take better care of the folks who are keeping the supply chain going. So I want us to round out by talking about that.
But one thing I really wanted to underscore, because we’ve already acknowledged that this goes far beyond package carriers. Right now, farm workers in California are marching the length of the state to go to governor Gavin Newsom’s office in Sacramento to demand their rights, to organize collectively, to bargain collectively, to improve their working conditions.
Gaby mentioned that horrifying picture from Oregon a year or two ago of a UPS truck sitting on a street when the entire sky was red. I also remember looking at pictures from my home state of farm workers in the field while the mountains behind them were literally on fire. That shit happens all the time, and what, are we just going to sacrifice all these workers? And if they die, we’ll get new ones? What the fuck are we talking about here? And the thing that I wanted to underscore is, we actually did a bonus episode a few months back that I thought was really important where we talked about the Supreme Court ruling that basically overruled OSHA’s ability to push through… I think this was in reference to the vaccine mandates. Essentially, we’re not going to get into the politics of vaccine mandates, but I want people to understand that the ruling itself that the Supreme Court offered, said that COVID-19 is a generalized condition. It exists everywhere now, and so it cannot be considered a workplace issue.
Now what that means, again, if you’re someone who’s opposed to vaccine mandates and you thought that was a victory, great. If you’re someone who’s for vaccine mandates and you thought that was a loss, again, I don’t want to get mired in that. I want us to just understand that the ruling itself laid the groundwork for something really sinister regarding what we’re talking about here. Because if you can say that COVID protections are not OSHA’s jurisdiction to enforce at workplaces, what naturally follows from that ruling is that you could say climate conditions are also not working conditions because it’s a generalized thing. Thereby employers are not required to make any special protections or whatnot for their workers as climate catastrophe gets worse.
And so, I wanted to mention that because y’all have mentioned the importance of getting contract language to address this. Everyone is looking forward to next year with the massive contract fight. So I wanted to, on a final round, ask about that. What can we do to fix this problem and protect workers who are enduring these brutal heat conditions that are only going to get worse as climate change gets worse? What should folks listening know about the upcoming contract fight at UPS? And what, most importantly, can they do to support y’all and your fellow workers around the country?
Gabriela: Okay. Real quick, what the public can do and some tips for being in the heat, and then I’ll talk about the contract. What the public can do, give us water. That’s really nice. Thank you. Please give us water and ice. What workers can do, guys, take your breaks. Take your breaks. Drink lots of water. Drink electrolytes. I don’t know if fans work great, they don’t work great where I’m from, but do what you have to do to stay safe. We don’t want you to die.
Talking about the contract fight and what we need to do, well, one thing that we have not touched on yet was that on June 25, a UPS driver named Esteban Chavez Jr. died in Los Angeles from overheat or heat exhaustion, whatever the technical term is. And that’s really sparked –
Zakk: Yeah, rip level, Stevie.
Gabriela: That has sparked a huge fight across the country to get fans in the trucks, but also not only fans, AC, something to help us beat this heat, because honestly, fans are not enough. Some people are fighting for fans, fans work some places, but we need more than that. And then in July, a driver in Arizona in Scottsdale passed out on a ring doorbell camera in front of somebody’s house. I think a lot of people have seen that video. If you haven’t, you should Google it. Look up UPS driver Arizona collapses heat. So after those two incidents happened, the Teamsters came out with a statement, and there’s also been a lot of movement across the country to fight back against the heat and have safe working conditions, to have a safe job.
So if people don’t know, we actually have new administration, new leadership in the Teamsters union. Sean O’Brien and Fred Zuckerman of the Teamsters United Slate won in 2021 and they took office in March of 2022. So UPS is gearing up for a very important contract in 2023.
Our contract expires July 31, 2023, and the Teamsters United Slate that is now in leadership at the Teamsters Union, Sean O’Brien wants to take on UPS like never before. And we are putting all of our most important issues on the table. So in the next year, we’re preparing to fight and to win a great contract for our members, and to tackle a lot of the issues that we’ve been seeing in the last few years, get rid of concessions that we’ve seen in the last contract negotiations in decades past.
And one of the top issues is heat relief. On July 20 – And you y’all can look this up, it’s too long for me to read, I think, as we’re wrapping up – But on July 20, the Teamsters came out with a statement. Teamsters demand UPS protect drivers amid record heat. And they have a list of demands that UPS takes, providing cool neck towels, PPE, installing a fan, ice machines, hiring more full-time drivers to relieve the amount of work we have. That’s a huge one. That is absolutely huge. Check that out. There’s a lot of locals across the country who are also partaking in a campaign called… What’s it called again? It’s like surveillance… Well, I’ll pause for a second so they can edit it. Okay, there’s… Okay.
Zakk: Surveillance, not safety. Oh, shit. No.
Gabriela: Yeah. That’s safety, not –
Zakk: Safety Not Surveillance.
Zakk: We want safety, not surveillance, not the other way around. That shit’s fucked up. We want safety, not surveillance. There we go.
Gabriela: So there’s a lot of locals across the country who are partaking in a campaign called Safety Not Surveillance, because UPS is installing cameras in every single package car so that they can watch us and surveil us even more and how stressful this job is. I don’t know if people know, but the UPS trucks we get, they actually come with AC, and UPS pays the manufacturer to take the AC out. So instead of keeping the AC in or spending money to install the AC, we’re getting fans installed in our trucks. So people, they’re fighting the cameras, but they’re also fighting for heat relief. So there’s a lot that we can do. The fight is mainly going to come down to UPS workers and to Teamsters, because it’s our contract, and we can fight for a better contract.
The public support, I think, means a lot. And I think when August 1, 2023 comes around, the first day our contract expires, we might be on strike. Who knows what’s going to happen. But we need to have the public on our side, and I think the public will be on our side. So if there’s anything the public can do, I mean, just help us with water. Think of us, follow our issues in the news, on the Teamster website. I can guarantee you, in a year you’re going to be talking about the Teamsters, and it’s going to be a really exciting time. So just stay up to date on what’s going on. We’re preparing and we’re fighting really hard to take on UPS and win what’s best for our members.
Zakk: I am so excited to hear all of that. Gaby, Gabriela, you bring such passion to the table when it comes to talking about this stuff, and it’s really inspiring to me. I think that this company has an opportunity to move our entire economy, to move our world forward, by really delivering what really matters: a prosperous and resilient and healthy and safe and equitable working environment for people. Our union is working hard to make all of this stuff happen, but it is a struggle. Everything that we get as working people, not only in this country, but in every other country and every other system, what we get is what we fight for.
No one hands us anything. And that’s fine. As working people, we know how to work. We know how to work for what we deserve. And we are going to work from now until 2023 to make sure that our people are taken care of, that these jobs are sustainable for the long term. We have 11.8 million delivery customers every single day. 1.7 million shipping customers, that’s people shipping medicine and shipping your food and shipping all of your stuff. And the company says that it’s investing in alternative fuel, and advanced technologies, and all of this stuff. But I’m telling you, on the shop floor, people are not seeing that. We’re hearing lots about it, and we can talk about this struggle through a lot of different lenses. I can speak to the people investing right now, the stuff that is coming and these recent accomplishments and recognitions stuff, we’re not seeing it.
You guys are maybe getting it in your shareholder reports. I get it in my shareholder reports. I’m a shareholder, I’m a stakeholder in this company. So knowing that there’s a diverse and global set of stakeholders in this company, and knowing that your workers are your most important set of stakeholders – They have to be, nothing works without your workers. None of this works. None of your stuff gets delivered. None of this happens without the workers. We do the work. And so, you can choose to invest in stock buybacks, or you can choose to invest in the infrastructure that brings all of this money, that really moves our economy forward. I think that Teamsters drive this economy through our trucking, through our rail, through our ports. Our folks work really hard at all this stuff. And empowering workers means that we lower inflation. We’re hearing a lot right now, especially from the Fed, about how workers they’re getting too much.
Wages are rising, and that’s why we have inflation. And that, my friends, is bullshit, because while company profit rates go up, we don’t see the wages go up at the same rate, but we see the prices go up. So if you want to lower your prices, you invest in your workers. If you want to take care of your workers who are out, what our customers can do, like Gabriela said, is provide us water, give us water. I’ve got a cooler out on my front porch right now with water and snacks and electrolytes. That stuff’s important, but it is not enough. And so that’s why, if you are a customer, if you rely on these services to bring you your stuff, please reach out, please send an email, please let the company know how important it is that they take care of the workers who deliver all your stuff, let them know.
And then, let the Teamsters know. Reach out to our unions, to our international, to Sean O’Brien, to Fred Zuckerman, to the guys on our executive board, reach out to your local and ask what you can do to help out, because your local, they have stuff. There are places that you can plug in right now to make a difference in your community, so reach out to your local. And if they don’t seem to know what’s going on yet, you do, because you listen to this podcast. So make a plan and suggest it, see what you can do to help out, because this is something that affects every single person in this country. And because we’re a global system, because we’re a global economy, it really affects everybody. And because we’re affected all by the current climate catastrophe, it really does affect all of us. We have the largest private sector contract in the entire country. This company and this union have the opportunity to set the path going forward. Will they take it? I really hope they do.
Steve: Yeah. I mean, a good point about the contract coming up, and that is the two-tiered driver system that they have right now. And that’s probably my biggest pet peeve with everything that’s going on with UPS as well as the heat that we’ve been talking about today. But we have regular package car drivers and then we have 22.4 drivers. And what we were told is, 22.4 drivers are going to be people who work in the building and then maybe take out a few things that got left at the building to help out, if something was too big to get into my truck, then maybe another, one of these 22.4 drivers would bring it out. In my hub, every 22.4 driver except for maybe one or two, have been doing exactly what I do every day, working nine to 12 hours, not working in the building, working what we do as drivers.
And they have no protections that we have. They can work excessive overtime and not grieve it. They can be pushed more than we can. They can’t be protected like we can. And UPS knows this, and they are abusing this, and they are using it against us. They will push these 22.4s to do more than a regular package car driver because they’re paid less, because they don’t have excessive overtime protection, and they can be used in different ways. They’re not being honest about what that job entails and they are making it a lot harder. And they’re trying to separate regular package car drivers from 22.4 drivers, and they should be treated the same. And that’s all on that.
Zakk: The 22.4 thing that Steve mentions, that’s a contract provision, that is Article 22.4. And for those of you who are not in the labor movement, who don’t know how a labor contract works, the rules are laid out. We’ve got a contract book. We know what to expect. The company knows what to expect. Everything is laid out for us. We negotiate what the terms of our work are with our employers, and so Article 22.4 allows us to… Well, the point of the article was to allow the company to create more full-time jobs, but they’ve exploited this thing. They’ve exploited this contract provision to push people faster and harder with less protections, with less pay. There was no reason why someone doing the same work should get paid less, why they should not have the same contractual protections. There was no reason why anybody should get paid less for doing the same job. I am so excited to see an administration that is saying, we’re not going to do that. This is not going to happen from here on out. So we’ll see you in 2023.
Gabriela: This upcoming year is the year the UPS workers are fighting back, more than ever. And we have a real opportunity to take on UPS and potentially go on strike on August 1, 2023. And if that happens, whatever happens in the next year, what us UPS Teamsters have the real potential to bring back a lot of life into the labor movement. So I think, following our fight, following what’s going on, is very important. And if you are a UPSer or you are a Teamster, get involved. This is the most important time in decades, since 1997, I would say, and we need all hands on deck. So stay up to date, get involved. A lot of locals are doing actions across the country. If you need anything, if you need any help or need to be pointed in the right direction, you can tweet at me. My Twitter is @UPS_Teamster. I want all hands on deck.
“An engrossing, behind-the-scenes account of our decade’s breakout political movement.” –Atossa Araxia Abrahamian
For a limited time, when you donate $30 or more to support In These Times, we’ll send you a copy of the new book, The Rise of a New Left: How Young Radicals Are Shaping the Future of American Politics, by Raina Lipsitz.
Maximillian Alvarez is editor-in-chief at the Real News Network and host of the podcast Working People, available at InTheseTimes.com. He is also the author of The Work of Living: Working People Talk About Their Lives and the Year the World Broke.