UPS and the US Heatwave: Bosses Profit on Deadly Conditions

A reading inside a UPS truck this July (2022), Florida

By: Devin B, Red Phoenix Correspondent NYC

In the United States, there are 702 heat-related deaths per year and roughly 67,512 visits to the emergency room due to heat. As of the publication of this article, 37,864,278 people have been under heat alerts in the midst of a summer in which June temperatures registered as the 15th-warmest June readings in 128 years. In July, Salt Lake City reached triple digit temperatures 16 times. Climate change has created these seemingly ‘freak’ occurrences and is continuing to create conditions that will only bring more intense and more deadly weather events. As these conditions worsen, more and more people will be put at risk, particularly those individuals who work outdoors or are involved in work that requires repetitive movement and physical labor.

The delivery drivers and warehouse workers are aware of this very danger, as over the course of these past Summer months, UPS employees all across the country were succumbing to extreme cases of heat exhaustion and at times fatal instances of heat stroke. Delivery drivers across the nation were reporting temperatures as high as 116 to 120 degrees in their trucks. Drivers typically have anywhere from 150 to 200 stops a day, with as many as 300 packages to deliver during shifts that last up to 14 hours. Yet, the trucks they drive lack air conditioning due to the company’s claim that it would be “ineffective,” but one could easily argue that allowing the trucks to reach temperature ranges that the National Weather Service classifies on the heat index as ‘Danger’ level is immoral and “ineffective” in itself. Buildings can reach similar temperatures given the right conditions, and often the trucks reach triple digit temperatures even while they’re still parked on company grounds. It all sets up the ideal foundations for the very suffering which we witnessed not only in these past months but in these past few years. Such practices are the same that killed Jose Cruz Rodriguez Jr. In Texas and Esteban Chavez Jr. in southern California.

All this suffering and death came out of the world’s largest package delivery company which collected $97.3 billion in revenue in 2021. Within the first 9 months of that year, the company “generated more profit than any full year in our history,” said CEO Carol Tomé. This immense amount of revenue is openly enjoyed by the top executives and investors who indulge in their increasing wealth, while the working class endures ever increasing hardships. The pandemic’s consequences have caused around 97 million more people to live on less than $1.90 a day. While the majority of people experience new problems in conjunction with worsening economic and ecological conditions, the ruling class will continue to rake in record profits by exploiting our labor and restricting our rights worldwide.

These are the expected results of the capitalist mode of production; a greater saturation of wealth amongst an exclusive minority that benefits directly from the extraction of surplus value from the laboring majority. To survive in the capitalist system, private companies are encouraged to provide the least amount of amenities possible to their workers and to constantly strive to lower employees’ wages in order to extract maximal profits from production. The less they are obliged to pay their workers, and the less they are required to invest in workers’ safety and security, the more profits can be dedicated towards expanding production and the personal indulgences of the bourgeoisie. Sadly, it doesn’t stop there. This economic and political system is not only financially inequitable and exploitative, it is also environmentally damaging and unsustainable.

Capitalist production functions on a system of limitless growth — profits must rise year over year or else a company is deemed unprofitable. This means that in the case of UPS, executives and management personnel are encouraged to continuously increase the number of trucks deployed and packages delivered each and every year despite the effects that emissions, pollution, and waste will have on our already fragile ecosystems. Corporations’ so-called green initiatives, such as the shift toward manufacturing electric and hybrid vehicles, will only dampen the drastic consequences of these practices. Even these types of ‘green’ alternatives aren’t sustainable! The only way to achieve true sustainability is to establish a workers’ democracy that ensures the proletariat’s rights and that aims to protect the planet.

Categories: U.S. News, Workers Struggle

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