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UPS warehouse workers fight the heat

By Jared Hamil

Los Angeles, CA – As summer heat rolls in, warehouse workers at UPS are fighting to stay cool. 2016 is on track to be the warmest year ever recorded. This year has seen new high record temperatures in parts of Los Angeles County. Other parts of the country are also seeing record high temperatures.

In many UPS warehouses around the country, temperatures inside the building are higher than outside. These warehouses use heavy machinery and conveyor belts that run around the clock, six days a week. Preload part-timers load the UPS delivery trucks before drivers get there, and work in buildings with high temperatures and truck exhaust fumes. UPSers are at constant risk of overheating and at times become sick while on the job. These conditions can be partially relieved by industrial fans. However in many parts of the country, preloaders are forced to work without them. Part-timers at the Olympic Hub in Los Angeles are fighting back.

For years, part-timers have been asking for fans. Some even asked for them at the management-run Health and Safety Committee. Unfortunately, management refused to install fans. Recently, some workers in the warehouse started a petition in support of fans. They also created buttons that read, “Fans now!” With all the support for fans, management has still refused to install them. Instead, UPS management installed new expensive machinery to efficiently apply labels to their packages. This machinery also eliminated a few jobs from the preload shift. Preloader Jorge Catalan said, “It says a lot about a company when it takes so much effort from the workers to try and convince UPS that proper ventilation adjustments are needed in the workplace. Being ignored and put to the side is not something a unionized workplace should be going through!”

UPS workers in other cities are fighting for fans. Gabriella Killpack, a dayshift sorter who works in Salt Lake City, Utah said, “Here in Utah we're recording the temperatures in the hub every hour, and documenting symptoms of heat sickness. Every week several people throw up or pass out from the heat. We've started a petition to demand fans in the building and people from every shift are excited to sign it. Management says it’s not hot enough here to get fans but the workers have had enough and we are going to fight back until we get them.”

As of July 29, UPS announced its second quarter profits and earnings. Domestically, UPS made $1.2 billion in profit. Instead of making conditions safer for workers, UPS plans to invest in technology that is designed to cut operating costs and return even more profit for the company.

Record temperatures are expected for August. In the meantime, UPS workers continue to work without fans, or any air conditioning. In Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and other parts of the country UPSers are fighting for better conditions in their workplace.

Jared Hamil is a UPS preloader in Los Angeles and also a rank-and-file member of Teamsters Local 396.

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