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Union: UPS Is 'Sending Drivers Out to Die'

Company urged to do more to protect workers from searing heat
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2022 6:42 PM CDT
Union: UPS Is Failing to Protect Drivers From Heat
A United Parcel Service driver starts his truck after making a delivery in Cumming, Ga.   (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

The union representing the majority of UPS drivers say the company is risking drivers' lives by sending them out to work without adequate protection from this summer's searing temperatures. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters says the company didn't invest in improving heat safety for its 350,000 workers despite record earnings last year, NBC reports. Safety experts say that heat illness is a serious risk for UPS workers and that the number of incidents is probably undercounted. Last month, a grieving father blamed his son's death on heatstroke at work, and doorbell video showed another UPS driver collapsing in front of a home.

Unlike many drivers for FedEx and other delivery companies, most UPS drivers don't have air-conditioned trucks, and the union is angry that the company has invested in automation and surveillance technology, including cameras in trucks, while drivers are still sweltering, the City reports. UPS argues that its drivers' frequent stops would make air conditioning "ineffective." Workers in Arizona and Florida have provided temperatures readings as high as 150 from the back of UPS trucks, where drivers need to go to retrieve packages, though the company says it has taken steps to improve airflow.

The union has called for immediate improvements including installing fans in every vehicle instead of by request. It has also called for more breathable uniforms, improved supplies of water and ice, and the hiring of more drivers to ease workloads, which are not adjusted even when temperatures reach record highs. "By refusing to implement these safety measures, the company is literally sending drivers out to die in the heat," says Teamsters general president Sean M. O'Brien. The union plans to make heat protection a key issue in negotiations before the drivers' union contract expires next year. (Read more UPS stories.)

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