A UPS worker was denied a fan in his truck during a heat wave two weeks ago due to a “corporate decision,” even though having a fan is protected by the workers’ union contract.
Elliot Lewis, a driver and steward in Teamsters Local 804, the branch of the international Teamsters union that is responsible for UPS workers in New York, put in a request to have a fan installed in his truck. On the request slip, which Lewis posted a photo of on Twitter on July 29, he wrote, “Pls install fan. Thanks.”
The technician’s note, apparently from when the slip was returned to Lewis, reads, “Can’t install fan. It’s a corporate decision.”
Lewis also posted the section of the Teamsters’ contract with UPS that mandates workers be permitted a fan. It reads, “The parties agree that a package car driver requesting a fan in the cab of their vehicle shall make such request through the local Safety and Health Committee for approval…Such request will not be unreasonably denied.” UPS told Motherboard after the fact that the denial “should not have occurred.”
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UPS came under fire for refusing to install air conditioners in the trucks after a driver died of heatstroke amid this summer’s high temperatures—drivers had recorded temperatures of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit inside their trucks. A video also went viral in late July showing a delivery driver collapse on somebody’s front porch while bringing their package to the door. UPS had confirmed to Motherboard in a previous statement that fans were available “upon request.”
UPS spokesperson Matthew O’Connor confirmed that Lewis had initially been denied a fan and said the incident should not have occurred. “We are installing fans and addressed that issue as soon as it was brought to our attention,” he said. When asked why the issue had occurred in the first place, O’Connor replied, “It should not have occurred and we’ve taken steps to address it.”
In a previous statement, UPS told Motherboard that drivers were “trained” to deal with working in extreme heat. “UPS drivers are trained to work outdoors and to manage the effects of hot weather,” the statement read. “Preparation, rest, hydration and maintaining good health practices are key to working outdoors. UPS invests more than $260 million annually to implement programs focused on safety, including working in hot weather.”
Drivers have disputed that, however. Anthony Rosario, an organizer at Teamsters Local 804 and former UPS driver of over 20 years, said that the training was little more than being told to drink water.
“Just drinking water is not the answer all the time,” Rosario said. “Spokespeople want to say, ‘Oh, there’s training. Our drivers are trained to work in these conditions.’ Tell me where the training is.”
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