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UPS, Teamster Tentative Agreement means technology-based firings for part-timers

By Fight Back

Tampa, FL – The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) announced it had come to a tentative agreement with UPS, June 21. The agreement has been criticized for givebacks such as the creation of two-tier driving and poor part time wages. One concession is in Article 6 Section 6, Technology and Discipline. The article currently states:

“No employee shall be discharged if such discharge is based solely upon information received from GPS or any successor system unless he/she engages in dishonesty (defined for the purposes of this paragraph as any intentional act or omission by an employee where he/she intends to defraud the Company).”

The proposed change would edit “employee” to read “driver.” This giveback is plain and simple: part-timers will not only continue to experience harassment, retaliation and unfair firings but now attacks from management will be aided with state-of-the-art technology.

UPS puts heavy emphasis on technological developments with an annual technology budget of over $1 billion. The company began implementing the ORION system in 2008 by adding GPS tracking to package cars and fully rolled out the program in 2012. As a response to this, Article 6 Section 6 was created by revising older technology based discipline language.

In 2016 UPS launched EDGE, the ORION equivalent for inside warehouse work. The program consists of current technologies such as ring scanners but also technologies that the company seeks to release in the future, such as using Google Glass and augmented reality to assist in sorting packages. Just as ORION has dramatically changed on-road operations, EDGE will do the same for inside warehouse operation. This concession will leave a significant portion of UPS employees without any protection from technology-based firing.

As a part of EDGE, UPS has begun implementing the Zebra MC45, a handheld used by car washers. The Zebra MC45 is a device similar to a DIAD where car washers can record oil levels and fuel levels of cars.

James DeWeese, a business agent from Local 89 representing Ground Division employees in Kentucky and southern Indiana, is worried about the potential for these handhelds. “The technology involved in this component has GPS, video, and audio capabilities and it raises a lot of concerns, including health concerns,” said DeWeese.

After the company implemented the Zebra MC45s at two locations without discussing the changes they would have on work, the local sent a letter and then took the issue to a state level panel. The case however was denied, and DeWeese filed a charge with the labor board. Although the technology has not been used to discipline employees, DeWeese is wary. “Half of our membership will be using this technology. Part-timers deserve stability and protection,” said DeWeese.

At the 2017 Investors Conference, UPS Chief Information Officer Juan Perez shared his vision for UPS: “I can imagine a day when we dispatch a fleet of autonomous package cars each morning that are guided by a real-time version of ORION. The onboard technology anticipates bad weather and accidents – and adjusts to accommodate new pickup requests.” Juan Perez also touched on drones at UPS. “We believe there are a number of ways drones can augment our services, whether that’s in our warehouses or on our delivery routes.” In 2018 alone, UPS plans on spending $7 billion on expanding its logistic networks, automation and technology.

To get an idea of how UPS may operate in the future, one only needs to look at Amazon. Blending high tech with brutal working conditions, Amazon squeezes more and more profit out of its inside warehouse workers. By timing workers as they are scanning packages and loading boxes, Amazon is able to monitor the production rates of their employees, who are then threatened with termination if these rates fall below company standards. Amazon workers oftentimes urinate into bottles to meet these production goals. Amazon is currently developing a wristband which would have the ability to track employee’s hand movements and ‘nudge’ them if they are about to pick the wrong item. We could see similar technology at UPS in the coming years.

UPS Teamsters need a contract that protects them from abuses with technology. This giveback is a step in the wrong direction. Instead of removing technology protections for a whole group of workers, the IBT should be fighting to remove dishonesty language from the contract. The company often uses this dishonesty language to retaliate against union militants, including most recently Jacksonville, Florida shop steward Dustin Ponder. This concession is one more reason to vote ‘no’ on the tentative agreement.

#TampaFL #Teamsters #UPS